This is not a clash of civilizations but an internal conflict between moderates and extremists

A recent report in Time explains the huge significance of Salman Taseer’s killing. “The manner of his murder reveals a truth that many Muslims still deny: This is not a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West but an internal conflict between moderates who advocate inclusiveness and extremists who preach hatred,” says the report, adding “For Pakistan, that struggle is titanic: The winner will determine if Islam in the country retains its soul or loses it.”

There is every explanation that the assassination of Salman Taseer, by his security guard is emerging as a momentous issue in the politically inconsistent country. Not only has the killer been applauded and honored by thousands of fanatics, among them lawyers and journalists, he has also been felicitated at a well-attended rally in Karachi. Crowds gathered to shower him with rose petals when he was produced in court.

Taseer’s unequivocal liberal stance offended the country’s increasingly powerful obstructionist religious base.It further escalated when religious political parties and banned organizations vowed to “take the law into their own hands”. The divide between the extremists and moderate circles of Pakistan is deepening and minorities and the oppressed classes will be feeling more insecure now, as the state fails to end this phenomenon and due to these sorts of extremists trends today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan.

Salman Taseer’s biggest crime was his liberal approach & western views on law and democracy and he questioned legislation of General Zia-ul-Haq. History tells us that the law made strict during Gen Zia’s period of rapid radicalization of vast swaths of Pakistan and Afghanistan to dispense an ideology that one could use to help motivate younger generation, and often times teenagers into becoming freedom fighters against the Soviet Union and it was also an attempt to gain legitimacy by posing as a defender of religion. The laws have led to horrific communal violence and have been applied against an ever expanding range of victims. This is why Taseer repeatedly criticized law and believed it was pivotal in determining the country’s future.

While most of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are Muslims, non-Muslim religious minorities suffer disproportionately: Though approximately five percent of the population, they are half of those accused, and the testimony of one Muslim is sufficient to convict a non-Muslim. They also suffer increasing attacks by extremists. On August 1, 2009, after a Christian was accused of burning a holly Quran, a mob connected to the banned extremist group attacked Christians in Korian and Gojra: They indiscriminately killed seven Christians, six of whom (including two children) were burned alive. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that police knew of the intended attack but did nothing to prevent it. And while the state has so far not executed those convicted of blasphemy, dozens of accused people have been assassinated by fanatics, even when their cases ended in acquittal.

Salman Taseer said that he had also showed his solidarity with minority communities who were being targeted by that law and, in doing so, I had sent across a strong message.

The terror is amalgamated by the knowledge that 500 leading Muslim scholars not only celebrated the murder but warned that no Muslim should mourn Salman Taseer’s murder or pray for him. Despite all these threats and warnings, Christians, minorities and human rights campaigners mourn Salman Taseer; the main churches in Pakistan held special prayers for Taseer amid their Sunday services to pay tribute to Taseer’s advocacy for minority rights and his position on blasphemy laws.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rioghts Michael H. Posner arrives in Islamabad today (Saturday) on a three-day visit to Pakistan for talks on human rights issues in Pakistan, including protection of minorities and the use of Blasphemy Act.

During his stay in the capital, Posner will call on President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, federal ministers Mumtaz Gilani and Shahbaz Bhatti and representatives of the civil society. Talking to American media before departure for Pakistan on Friday, the assistant secretary of state said the United States supports religious and personal freedom and democracy.

As per the news published in various newspapers the President Asif Ali Zardari also vows to protect minorities in Pakistan, where it concerns the rights of the non-Muslims is seemingly the worst of anywhere in the Muslim world.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday asked Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti to continue consultations with scholars and clerics to build “consensus against misuse of laws against the minorities and vulnerable groups”.

Zardari asked Bhatti, a Christian, to hold consultations with scholars and clerics of different faiths and denominations for the exercise, said a statement issued by the presidential spokesman.

The government “will protect the minorities at all costs in accordance with the vision” of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Constitution, Zardari said.

He told Bhatti, who called on him at the presidency, that “no one would be allowed to take the law into their own hands nor will anyone be allowed to misuse the country’s laws.”

Religious hardliners have targeted critics of the blasphemy law and warned the government against repealing or amending it.

Salmaan Taseer’s dastardly assassination by his own bodyguard ‘Mumtaz Qadri’, illustrate the level of religious extremism and radicalization that has spread in society and it also reflects that Pakistan is gripped by extremism and religious fanaticism. Moreover, not only do all these threats by the extremists to suffocate and suppress not only the religious and personal freedoms, but also our abilities as a developing society.

Religious fanaticism is woven into the fabric of Pakistani society and the murderous mood prevailing in Pakistan:

Assassination Threat To Sherry Rehman

The threat of assassination for the very same reason that caused Salman Taseer’s death hangs over the head of Sherry Rehman, a Member of Parliament, who has submitted a private member’s bill to reform the blasphemy laws. Her bill has led clerics to call her an infidel. The imam of Sultan Masjid, one of Karachi’s biggest mosques, went further and declared her “wajib-ul-qatl” (fit to be killed) while delivering a sermon after Friday prayers.

Other Islamic hardliners have also issued a pamphlet naming Sherry Rehman as a person who “has invoked the religious honor of Pakistan’s Muslims” by calling for amendments to the blasphemy law, while Muslim religious leaders are said to be offering rewards to anyone willing to physically attack those who criticize the blasphemy law.

Civil society activists have filed a complaint against the imam of Sultan Masjid at the Darakhsan police station in Karachi. In their complaint they also allege that the imam had praised Mumtaz Qadri the assassin. The activists say they are proud to be Muslims but opposed to murdering people in the name of Islam.

Sherry Rehman is not cowed by the threat of assassination and has said that she will not flee Pakistan for her own safety, as advised by her own political party. Security arrangements for her and for her house have, however, been tightened.

Threat Of Suicide Attack On Prison Where Asia Bibi Is Being Detained

Security has also been tightened around Sheikhupura Prison because Pakistani intelligence believes that an extremist Islamist group called Moaviya is planning a suicide attack against that prison, where Asia Bibi has been held since 2009. She is the Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, and whose case prompted re-examination of the blasphemy law, and for whom the late Punjab governor and Sherry Rehman have expressed sympathy.

Threat To Shehrbano Taseer

Shadab Qadri, the leader of Sunni Tehreek, an Islamic political party in Pakistan, has warned Salman Tasser’s daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, to “remember her father’s fate” and to stop speaking out against the blasphemy law. She had told the BBC Today program that her father’s stance had been misrepresented. She had said that he had merely said that the law was being abused to target the poor, the dispossessed and the voiceless, but that his views had been misconstrued as being blasphemous. Sunni Tehreek has offered the late Punjab governor’s assassin legal support and financial help to his family because he had “performed a great duty in the name of Islam”.

The assassination highlights an ideological question that has been worrying and terrorizing Pakistanis for the last decade: can Pakistan survive as a viable democratic liberal state? or can Pakistan rid itself of religious fanaticism?

The most frightening aspect of Taseer’s assassination was that it was carried out by one of his bodyguards, who belonged to an elite unit of the Punjab police trained specifically to fight terrorists. Mumtaz Qadri told his colleagues that he was going to gun down the governor. Not one of them stopped him or informed anyone. The other guards watched as Qadri riddled Taseer’s body with more than 20 bullets and then calmly put down his gun. Reports have emerged that Qadri’s extremist views were known by his superiors and had been reported to higher authorities, but he remained in his job and even more alarmingly, Qadri belongs to a mainstream Barelvi sect traditionally opposed to the Taliban, and so his actions are not even tied to the traditional fault-lines of extremism in the country.

The tyrannical and high-handed nature of this act is far more dangerous because it shows that the radical’s extreme convictions and thoughts of chauvinism and authorization have spread and infiltrated unprecedented severance in Pakistani society. The divide between Qadri’s supporters and detractors is indicative of a deeply fragmented society; divided along fault lines which show no potential of coherence but a rapidly growing susceptibility to incoherent violently.

Central Information Secretary of the Pakistan People’s Party Fauzia Wahab said the murder of Salmaan Taseer shocked the progressive-minded people. “Where are we going, this is not our destination,” she said. “Who gave them the authority to kill someone?” she questioned and said that no one has the right to kill others by stating that they are ‘Wajibul Qatal’. She said enlightenment, education and democracy is our future and propagation of this ‘mentality’ will eventually take us to darkness. Fauzia urged enlightened groups to unite in order to make Pakistan an enlightened democratic fort.

Pakistan stands at a definitive crossroads, and the popular reaction to Taseer’s murder demonstrates just how hazardous the situation is. With this detestable proceeding, the country and its people threaten to fall even deeper into an fissure. Pakistani liberal democratic parties and the genuine civil society, need to move decisively against this atmosphere of terror and seek ways in which positive and constructive sentiments of tolerance can be expressed and cultivated without fear. And in our reckon civil Society needs to ally with the PPP for survival. It is time for political parties and their leaders and other concerned partners to move decisively against this atmosphere of extremism, religious fanaticism and desperation.

Unfortunately, the extremists in Pakistan seem to be winning and right now it appears difficult to curb their aggression and counter their arbitrary actions. Further more, it looks as if state and it’s institutions particularly media and judiciary are not standing with liberals and moderate forces.

Taseer’s death highlights a problem that plagues many countries around the world: the discordance of religion and politics and its manifestation in a undemocratic order include rioting, intimidation and sometimes murder.

When allowed, religion becomes a dominant force in politics. It asphyxiate and strangulate debate on important issues, and instead attempts to force its beliefs on nonessential and inconsiderable matters like man made law and personnal conduct upon a population. Over enough time, the effect can be erosive on principles of democracy and free speech.

When religion gets used to having its way in politics, the casualties can be wide-reaching- from the educational curriculum to scientific/technological breakthroughs. Perhaps more tragically, they can be simple ideas for the benefit of society which happen to irk religious sensibilities.

Pakistan was conceived by its founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a moderate state for Muslims. But unrepresentative governments and military rulers have given way to increased radicalization and hypocritical religiosity. Now, it is high time to promote Sufi, moderate and respectful and far more tolerant, logical and intellectual viewpoint of religion. We also urge the forces of liberalism and tolerance and moderation to unite to fight the threats of extremists and fanatics who use violence and intimidation. And we also advice that religion should be kept away from politics forever.



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