by B. R. GOWANI
Salman Taseer’s daughter Shehrbano and political heir (left) and his wife Aamna (center) speak to Aasia Bibi (right), a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, during their visit to her jail in Sheikhupura, on November 20. Bibi, 36, who was handed down the death sentence by a court in Nankana district, has appealed President Asif Ali Zardari for a pardon, saying she was wrongly implicated in the case. PHOTO/Reuters/Arab News
Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab Province, with Aasia Bibi.. PHOTO/AP/Christian Science Monitor
The constant rise of the Islamic right in Pakistan since the mid 1970s, the introduction of the Mujahideens to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, later on the birth of the Taleban, and then the arrival of the Al Qaeda, and finally the popping up of so many Muslim militant groups, have all brought Pakistan to a juncture today where the tolerance level has reached a ZERO point. Any one can be accused of denigrating Koran or Muhammad (founder and prophet of Islam), and can be killed or put behind bars. Not only that, but anyone trying to defend the accused can be eliminated too, even if that person is the Governor of Punjab (the largest province in Pakistan). On November 4, Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his own security guards, Mumtaz Qadri.
Taseer can be blamed for not speaking out on many social ills bedeviling Pakistan, but nevertheless, one has to praise his brave stand against the Muslim barbarians bent on bleeding to death anyone who stand up to them–and especially, when the atmosphere of fear has such a hold on people’s psyche (and understandably, due to the terror campaign of these barbarians) that rarely anyone ventures out to counter them. The next, or more correctly, already on their target, is the Jinnah Institute’s President Sherry Rehman, the former Information and Broadcasting Minister. She is the only other prominent politician who is vocal in her opposition to the blasphemy law. Her security has been reportedly enhanced. But the term “security” sounds so foreign in the current Pakistani atmosphere.
All signs point to fascism
While Taseer’s body was being riddled with bullets, the other guards stayed inactive.
(The infiltration of the security and the armed forces by the Islamic elements has been a known fact since the late 1970s when General Zia-ul-Haq was in power.)
The reason given by the assassin was Taseer’s criticism of the blasphemy law. According to Qadri’s lawyer, Saimul Haq Satti, Qadri told him: “I am proud of it.” “There is no other use of my life but to sacrifice it for the sake of the Prophet Muhammad.”
Qadri was to appear in a Rawalpindi court but the arrival of his supporters, the madrassah students and extremist lawyers, forced the authorities to change the venue to Rawalpinid’s twin city, Islamabad.
The judge who was to hear the case of Mumtaz Qadri was prevented from leaving for Islamabad by the crowd. One of the lawyers, Malik Waheed Anjum, told reporters: “We requested the judge that legally he cannot go to Islamabad to hear the accused and he accepted our request.”
Note the contradiction: In the first instance, the supporters are breaking the law by preventing the hearing. Whereas in the second instance, the lawyer Anjum is talking about law.
Upon his arrival at the court, Qadri was showered with rose petals, was hugged, and kissed by many of the lawyers.
One desperately feels the absence of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry (who stood up against General Pervez Musharraf’s government). He is nowhere to be seen when he is most needed. And what does he have to say about the lawyers getting cozy with Qadri?
The 500 scholars from the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat issued a statement about Tasser’s killing:
“We pay rich tributes and salute the bravery, valour and faith of Mumtaz Qadri.”
“Also, there should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy.”
“”No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salmaan Taseer.”
“The supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed blasphemy.”
The media, politicians, and others should learn “a lesson from the exemplary death”.
No imam was willing to take a risk of offering the burial prayer and so the ruling Pakistan People’s Party had to find their own imam.
An important element of fascism
Although fascistic regimes and groups may differ in their approaches to impose their ideology, but their main goal is the same: A total control over the people by creating such a level of fear that any differing voice may not dare to rise and if anyone dares then they have the inhibited freedom to use violence to silence that voice.
And this is the atmosphere that the Muslim extremists in Pakistan have succeeded in creating. Few brave human rights and other activists and reporters are talling about the madness, but other than that the country is in the grip of eerie silence. Sherry Rehman is silent and probably have disappeared–a very wise thing to do on her part. President Asif Zardari, neither politically nor mentally a strong person, has not said much. Zardari’s Law Minister Babar Awan says “In my presence as the Law Minister, no one should think of finishing this [blasphemy] law.” And now listen to what his Interior Minister Rehman Malik has to say, this one will scare the hell out of every Pakistani who opposes the mullah power: He said, he himself would shoot anyone who blasphemes, according to the New York Times. A cynic may see a political tinge in this holier than thou attitude. But no, it is not that; Malik is saying this because he himself is also scared of the militants. The entire country is in a frightful mode and that is the proper gauge to determine whether the fascistic elements have succeeded or not.
To make sure whether Pakistan has turned into a fascist state, let’s look at two examples: One from India and one from the United States:
In 2002, about 2,000 Muslims were massacred by Hindu fanatics in Gujarat, India, under Narendra Modi’s rule, who is still in power. Not just in other states, but even in Gujarat, so many activists, intellectuals, artists, writers, and others criticized the Modi government and traveled to Gujarat to support the victims. Many people from Gujarat moved to other states in search of security.
Last year in April, the State of Arizona passed the Senate Bill 1070, which authorizes the police people to ask anyone for her/his legal status–which of course, is aimed mainly at the members of the Hispanic Community. It is a sad development, but those Hispanics who lack proper documents have at least a choice that if they want to move to another state they can. And they have found a lot of support from many people and organizations.
Now contrast the above two examples with the current situation in Pakistan and you’ll get a clear picture. The grip of the Muslim militants is nationwide, even the largest, most industrial, and cosmopolitan city of Karachi is under their control.
In these circumstances, imagine the psychological trauma Aasia Bibi is experiencing. She and her family should be sent out of Pakistan before it’s too late.
B. R. Gowani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org