I am speechless, yet I am writing this – well I am a Pakistani and contradictions by me are acceptable, just as long as I don’t flaunt them. Yes its hypocrisy but whatever.
Frankly as a society, I thought, we had passed the pre-dark age era of debate over common security. I mistakenly thought it was given that no one would harm another, and would follow course of law if he or she has been hurt by another. It seems that question isn’t yet settled and The News Pakistan wants your views on it.
Ask anyone why was a brute murder was hugged as a hero by so many today, response you get is this is ‘because of lack of education’. Personally, I am yet to see evidence of this. You see when you are fully uneducated, you know that you know nothing (incidentally thats the same feeling one hears from people who are highly educated). Trouble is when you are ignorant of your ignorance. When you have been fed on half-truths, sensational and hyperbolic stories, outdated notions and conspiracy theories, you are bound to be misinformed. But because you have undergone some degree of effort to ‘acquire’ this, however wrong ‘information’, you feel that you do know something. Thus not only are you misinformed, you are bullish about it. It takes large amount of humbleness to then accept that you may be wrong in your understanding, and may need to change your outlook But humbleness is the last thing you gain from a misinformed source. On the contrary, there is always a defence mechanism that prevents you from actually enlightening yourself to other point of views. This is to ensure that dogma remains intact, if it questioned then it reveals its fallacies and we just can’t have that.
When Zia started to spread his version of Islam in Pakistan, which allowed him to get more Saudi backing and, more importantly funds, give a political cause to his adventure in Afghanistan and to his illegitimate regime. He knew that he required some way of ensuring that his power isn’t questioned. So the introduction of Blasphemy law. This law stops any kind of rational and critical argument in its tracks. Further more, its a law that is ripe with misuse with dire consequences on the person against whom it is perpetuated.
See for example PPC 295A : ‘Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’
This then can easily be used to interpret that anything said which is even critical of any religion or religious thought, is blasphemy. This may be true, say if you say anything critical against a wahabi belief, that you as a Muslim don’t agree with. Like say someone’s attire that you think doesn’t necessarily reflect Islamic tradition.
Such a potent tool to kill any critical discourse on religion. What boon for a regime that uses religion and claims ‘do you want Islam?’ as justification for its coming to power. Subsequently the mullahs whose manifesto for how they would run country if they ever come into power is ‘Allah would provide’. They use this to stop any criticism of gaping loopholes in their totally non-viable manifestos. Further at local level, when local mullah needs to exert some influence, he uses his power from pulpit. However when asked, as one is likely to be asked in such a position, they utilise blasphemy to curb any such criticism and hide their shortcoming.
Take this further to even sinister conclusion. See the murder of hafiz-i-Quran in Gujranwala at behest of a jealous less literate local mullah as narrated by Kamran Shafi
One can then understand the interest of the bearded ones in status quo, but what of the middle-class men who otherwise claim to be progressive and want pragmatic solution to the country’s problems. Lets take example of the lawyers who today did the unspeakable act of horror by welcoming a murderer as hero.
So there you have it – conclusion for our urban middle classes is that its all right to kill anyone who we think doesn’t agree with our understanding of religion. Because not agreeing with us automatically makes them non-Muslim, blasphemer and thus worthy of death. If you were worried how we’d react to Talibans, well good news they are already here and are us, and we seem to be doing all right! Isn’t that a silver lining?
You see when you say you want rule of law, you should understand what you are asking for rule of THE Law, not your version law nor my version of law. Law is clear, and it can’t be any more clear that killing a man in cold blood over his views is murder. When you are wearing a black coat yet find murder excusable. You have done great injustice to the tradition of the bench and the coat, which was donned by some of the greatest men in the modern history. Further more it goes against your own profession. You are the officers of the court, you strive for due process and fair trial of the accused. Instead condoning extra-judicial act, is not only immoral but also against your own interest. Its like a doctor condoning a quack, only with darker ominous consequences.
Late Governor’s crime was that he publicly denounced a law that was directly responsible for misery and death of many innocent people – they were innocent, we know now when subsequent revelations showed foul play in their accusation. He wasn’t the only one, evidently the concept of blasphemy law in Hanifism (the sect that overwhelming majority still claim to follow) doesn’t exist. Taseer’s argument wasn’t even that law should be repealed. Instead he sought to have it amend. so as to ensure there are no false accusations, by raising the cost of false accusation. Even this is evidently too much. According to many any piece of legislation that has religious bases, is sacrosanct and it mustn’t be touched.
But wait, I hear you ask, didn’t Gen. Musharaff repel Zina ordinance and wasn’t Hasba bill also found null and void. That happened in General’s rule and as a rule that doesn’t count. Its only when people’s elected representative seek to do away with any thing like this is there trouble. Otherwise Mullahs are happy to let things be – such is the power of Khaki, that even iman of pure began to dwindle.
But its not only that fear factor. Why do the non-bearded ones join the ranks of beards against such an unjust law? Well when asked how can they support a murdered, the Qadri admirers were heard as saying that ‘killing that unrepentant drinker and fornicator is no crime’. There lies the hint to why so many joining the mindless mayhem.
You see when you decide to shave, cut hair, have a good life and have impure thoughts; you have effectively joined the ranks of sinners. That is if you have been schooled properly, you would believe this. You feel bad about it, you can’t live with yourself, but can’t live without the lifestyle either. The Catholic guilt is more alive in middle-class Pakistani Muslims than whole of Europe. When the unrepentant men like Taseer emerge, they become very good targets. This also explains the brouhaha over danish cartoons. Its very difficult to live according to the puritanical lifestyle you see for yourself, but it is definitely easier and simpler to cry foul and form a mob and lynch others. It not only helps with releasing psychological affects of the guilt of living non puritanical life twinned with stress of daily life, it surely must be good for the soul and lessen some of the sins.
Oddly the reason for kissing Qadri is same same as kissing of Pir Pagara’s hand or a shrine of a Pir or a Shah. Though former hate the latter and consider them to be non-muslim practitioners, former still have so much in common with latter. You see when a devotee goes to a Pir or Murshid’s shrine, they go because they feel that his person has acquired a connection with God and thus if they use their ‘source’ with God to help forgive their sins or help fulfil their prayers. Similarly the men who kissed Qadri did so because they believed Qadri had done an act for God and thus Qadri has come in to His good book. This means kissing him would make them favourable to God as well, and may be this would lessen their sins.
What is more worrying is that when you have such a guilt ridden frame of mind, you are fodder for extremists. It won’t take much to exert monetary favours from such men for the ’cause’ of Islam and then use this for nefarious purposes – oh wait, thats already happening!
International reaction to this incident would be of two sorts. First, when media reports of murder of Punjab Governor is followed by news of petal showering on the murderer, there emerges a perception that people are so angry at the current government that they are willing to embrace people assassinating them. Secondly as it emerges that Governor Taseer was killed for his views on amendment of Blasphemy law then it becomes clear that how people are quickly becoming radicalised. Already the current government has lost majority in the house, and could lose coming elections. If it does lose, its likely that extreme right may win the elections and then start radical Islamist reforms. Which would include appeasement, to giving confidence, to outright support to Talibans and Al Qaida. If its latter, then Pakistani nukes can easily be within reach of Talibans and Al- Qaida as well. Thus democratic experiment can be counterproductive, instead a more pragmatic government would be more acceptable. This is what Kiyani, Pasha et al, were hoping for. Given the chance that they may march back in power. They need justification internally and externally. Those excuses could be the imminent march of Taliban externally, and corruption, lack of majority and political infighting internally. I think somewhere in GHQ, the speech with ‘meray piyaray hum watno’ may already been taken out of the safe.
Challenge for the government then is to counter this move and not allow derailment of the political process. Though they may be vocal and they may hold powerful positions in the institutions of establishment, the Qadri sympathisers are not the majority. The vast majority of the people, those downtrodden for which the party was made and for whom so much poetry written, intellect spent and lives lost, they surely never can stand with bigoted. You see you need to think of yourself as ‘big’ to be bigoted – a luxury many can’t afford to even contemplate. If they held such sway, then political history of Pakistan would have been different, and party with secular manifesto would not have been the largest party in the country.
Taseer’s interview with CNN on Blasphemy Law, hope it clears his views on the issue
Post Script: After having established that Taseer was wajab-ul-qatl by speaking against an unjust law, and that Qadri was a hero for doing a crime of highest order, punishable by death.
Certain Ulema then considered praying at the funeral of the late Governor as forbidden. Gladly there are still millions of people who see through the truth and still came to janazah namaz. Sadly many of them now would have to re-do their nikkah