Polarisation and a threatened future

It was a sad day in parliamentary history when some senators refused to offer fateha (prayer for the dead) for the soul of late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Senators of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) not only refused to offer fateha, some of them even walked out of the Senate. What came as the biggest surprise was the refusal of Senator Abdul Khaliq Pirzada of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The MQM is one of the first parties to have called Mr Taseer a ‘shaheed’ (martyr) and condemned his brutal assassination. The MQM also supports a liberal democracy instead of a theocratic state. Though the MQM has distanced itself from Senator Pirzada’s refusal, calling it an individual act, it is still shameful that a senator of a secular political party has chosen to defy his party line. It shows how bigoted even some of our ‘representatives’ are.

On the other hand, Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi told a private television channel that the JUI-F was playing politics in the name of Islam for its vested interest. Allama Ashrafi called Mumtaz Qadri a murderer and said those declaring him a hero were wrong. It is indeed unfortunate that the right-wing fundamentalists have become the complainants, judge and jury as far as the blasphemy laws are concerned. Mr Taseer was declared a blasphemer by illiterate mullahs despite the fact that he was a Muslim and did not make any un-Islamic statement in his entire life. Declaring a Muslim an infidel is a sin according to Islam. Those who are indulging in such evil practices are violating our religion's injunctions.

The Pakistani nation is between a rock and a hard place. If the country allows itself to be hijacked by right-wing hardliners, things will go from bad to worse. It is time to rally for sanity and end this polarisation in society. The government has made it clear that the blasphemy laws will not be altered. But it is the need of the hour not to allow the misuse of the blasphemy laws to continue. Paralysis because of the fear of an extremist backlash will only further embolden the militant forces. Pakistan cannot afford to give in to this fear. It is time to stand up to these forces in order to save this country’s future.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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