It is not just the liberal segment of Pakistani politics that has paid the price for being progressive in articulating what Pakistan—a state created for Muslims, but with a secular vision—should be or should not be. In October 2008, a gathering of the Muttehadda Ulema Council at Jamia Naeemia in Lahore, presided over by Maulana Dr Sarfraz Naeemi, a renowned leader of the country’s majority Sunni-Barelvi sect, issued a unanimous fatwa declaring suicide attacks in Pakistan as haram (unlawful) and najaez (unjustified) under Islam. In June 2009, Maulana Naeemi was killed solely for issuing this fatwa, as a TTP suicide bomber killed k him and scores of other people who had just finished offering Friday prayers at the Jamia Naeemia mosque in Lahore.
Apart from killing thousands of innocent civilians and soldiers, Taliban-led terrorists have not spared institutions of higher Islamic learning, such as the International Islamic University in Islamabad, where twin suicide bombings at a girl students’ cafeteria and the classroom of the Shariah Faculty in 2009 took the lives of a number of innocent students, mostly female. So, there is a sufficiently long list of tragedies that Pakistanis have suffered at the hands of these extremist terrorists.
The ease with which the gunman could kill the Governor of the country’s largest Punjab province actually tells us the extent of the reach the terrorist organisations have been able to acquire. Their penetration of the security agencies and the police, including its Elite force trained to fight terrorism to which Mr. Taseer’s killer belonged, highlights the gravity of the terrorist problem facing the state structure, governmental institutions and those who operate or run it. How can it be cleansed of potential culprits such as Mumtaz Qadri?
What would compel him to commit a murder and then surrender, knowing well the ultimate price for him will also be death? This must be a messianic mission for him, the equivalent of a suicide bombing—for he had the firm belief that Asia, the Christian lady convicted of blasphemy, must face death. And so should anyone, no matter how high prolife his status is, who calls for the repeal of a law which may have victimised many innocent people in the last nearly 30 years.
We may not have any love lost for Salman Taseer, a socialist comrade-turned-capitalist business tycoon, but the stand he took on the issue of blasphemy in Pakistan was just. His death is, therefore, unjust and cannot be morally or religiously justified.
Now we can only hope that the latest national tragedy will arouse a nation-wide feeling of disgust at all those forces whose consistent abuse of Islam has tarnished the image of Muslims. We can also pray that the national debate on Blasphemy Law is not hijacked by these forces, and that the leaders who wish it to be repealed should continue to be fearless on the issue, even after losing their most vocal compatriot.
It is the danger following the death that must be combated with full courage by all those who wish Pakistan to reflect the same largely pacifist subcontinental creed that has been in vogue for centuries, including thooughout much of Pakistan’s history as well.
However, this would not be possible if Pakistan was to face another round of political instability—which may, unfortunately, be the case. The MQM has already parted ways with the government over the GST issue. We will have to wait and see whether Prime Minister Gilani succeeds in coming days bringing in other coalition partners to undo the current status of his government as one of minority.
If he did, then it would be about time to muster the parliamentary support for the repeal of heinous legislations such as Blasphemy Law which are a legacy of an Islamist dictatorship in the country that ended over 20 years ago. Jinnah’s Pakistan does not deserve to be in a shape that the very religious right who opposed Pakistan’s creation is hell bent upon creating and claiming for the country.