The war is not over —by Mashal Sahir

When the political parties succumbed to the mullahs’ will, the masses reflexively assumed that the mullahs were right about the blasphemy laws, which is why the government had to give up, and they accused the only courageous man in the government, Salmaan Taseer, for holding a supposedly wrong opinion

The governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated on January 4, 2011 in Islamabad. He was shot 27 bullets by one of his elite security force guards. The murderer surrendered to the police and told them that he had killed him because he termed the blasphemy laws as ‘black laws’. So, basically, Salmaan Taseer lost his life because he was courageous enough to take a stand against something he did not agree with and was humane enough to lend moral support to a poor Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy.

I am not going to argue whether the blasphemy laws are just or not, I believe numerous columnists, including myself, and human rights activists have already presented a number of arguments to prove everything that is wrong with the blasphemy laws. Today, I am just aggrieved that once again we have shown to the whole world what an intolerant society we are; we have revealed what the cost of human life is in our society; we have proven, yet again, that we are savages who do not believe in arguments or discussions, who only know one way of winning an argument, by silencing others in the opposition. We are a society where one individual can take the law into his hands, take a person’s life and in the process destroy an entire family, simply because that person’s opinion differed from his.

The underlying question here is, who is responsible for this intolerance in our society? I am pretty sure no human being can be so cold-blooded and heartless inherently. Is it the mullahs who spread their venom or is it the government, which gives them the license to preach their hatred to the people, who should be held responsible for this rise in intolerance? The fact of the matter is that it is both.

The mullahs have grown extremely powerful since Zia’s tenure. They have a strong influence on policy making in Pakistan, as a result of which their opinions are dominant in the educational curricula as well as laws of Pakistan. They have managed to brainwash the masses into following their hatred and extremism by public demonstrations of the ‘true’ teachings of religion. Forty-five percent of Pakistan’s population is illiterate and 40 percent is living under the poverty line and the mullahs have taken full advantage of this situation for spreading their rabid ideologies among the masses; they have opened madrassas where they openly preach hatred. Poor people send their children to these madrassas completely unaware of what their children are being taught just for the sake of food and shelter. After Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, a maulana stated on a private TV channel that the governor had been punished for his ‘sins’. By giving this statement, he turned the murderer into a hero who had ‘guarded’ the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the eyes of the masses. This is a perfect example of how these mullahs play with the psyche of the ordinary people. Their strength is evident from the fact that recently they were powerful enough to observe a complete shutter-down strike across the country on the call of Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat to protest against any attempt to amend the blasphemy laws. Rallies were taken out from various parts of the country. This is the mullahs’ way of brainwashing the people who are not completely aware of the true teachings of their religion.

However, our mainstream political parties have played an equally filthy role in giving rise to intolerance in the society. In response to the strike, the politicians were taking turns to appease the religious lobby. The federal minister for religious affairs, PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah announced that the government would not amend the blasphemy laws. Punjab law minister, PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah, called these laws ‘perfect’ and said that his party was committed to these laws. The opposition parties in the Punjab Assembly staged a token walkout during the strike to express solidarity with the religious parties thus presenting the mullahs with the opportunity to further hypnotise the masses under the spell of their extremism. When the political parties succumbed to the mullahs’ will, the masses reflexively assumed that the mullahs were right about the blasphemy laws, which is why the government had to give up, and they accused the only courageous man in the government, Salmaan Taseer, for holding a supposedly wrong opinion. Had the political parties stood firmly by his stance, nobody would have even dared to attack the governor.

By definition, a law is a body of rules governing the affairs of a community and is meant to ensure social order and justice. It seems our government and the mullahs do not want justice in this ‘land of the pure’. It is not possible to be just until and unless we allow freedom of speech, and since, in Pakistan, it is a trend to murder anybody who tries to put forth his/her opinion, I believe there is no room for justice and therefore no need for laws here.

Salmaan Taseer’s martyrdom is not just the death of a great leader but also the death of justice! It is the death of all the hopes of the minorities who looked up to him for their protection. This is a dark day in the history of this country and we should all be ashamed of ourselves. I suggest the extremist elements in this country not to delude themselves that they have won. Yes! They succeeded in killing Salmaan Taseer, who was an asset to the cause of humanity, however, we will not cry, instead we will celebrate for we have proven that we are determined enough to give up our lives for the sake of our cause. Not the one who kills but the one who is ready to get killed is the stronger one. We shall not let Salmaan Taseer’s great sacrifice go to waste, we will continue with his cause and fight till we succeed or every last one of us meets the same fate as his! The war is not over yet!