Winning a lost battle

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." A lot of people shared these words from Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech (June 2005) on Facebook and Twitter after the news of his death broke out yesterday.

These words reminded me of a man we lost nine months ago: Salmaan Taseer. On January 4, 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by one of his bodyguards. Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of Mr Taseer, did not just kill a man; he killed an ideology, he killed tolerance and reasonable debate in Pakistan. Taseer was known for being vocal on issues that many others dared not raise in public. He was hounded by the right wing forces for highlighting the plight of a Christian woman accused of alleged blasphemy.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are flawed. Majority of those accused of blasphemy are innocent, but once the word 'blasphemous' is attached to someone, he/she either goes to jail, gets lynched and/or is killed. Though it would be ideal to scrap these man-made laws, considering the reactionary elements in the country, there were some voices that demanded these laws be amended at the very least. With Taseer's assassination, the debate on blasphemy laws too died a silent death. Liberal and progressive elements in Pakistan mourned Salmaan Taseer's death because he was someone who always stood up for his principles and never shied away from speaking his mind. The minorities wept at Mr Taseer's loss because he was one of the rare politicians who stood up for their rights. But then there was another sort of reaction to Taseer's assassination; that of apathy or glee.

Mumtaz Qadri suddenly had a large following among the right wing. It was due to his support amongst the extremist sections of the society that his trial met with some hurdles. On October 1, Qadri was awarded a double death penalty by an anti-terrorism court (ATC). As was expected, his supporters were furious. Rallies were held in some cities by religious groups to denounce the verdict. The blood-curdling statements made at those rallies were shocking. Threats were issued to Judge Pervez Ali Shah, who handed down the sentence. A price was named for Judge Shah's head. His office was attacked by dozens of lawyers protesting against the judgement. "After [Monday's] protest and the attack on his office, the judge is not attending his office," said Malik Khalid Jawad, president of the district bar association, Rawalpindi. There are reports that Judge Shah has gone on an indefinite leave given the circumstances. More than 40 religious parties have joined hands to start a countrywide campaign in support of Mumtaz Qadri. That Qadri is a cold-blooded killer does not bother them at all. But then again, these so-called 'religious' parties are full of bloodthirsty murderers because their interests thrive on spreading terror.

Intolerance has penetrated the Pakistani society to such an extent that most people now choose to remain quiet on issues that might be deemed sensitive. Losing Mr Taseer was perhaps one of the biggest blows for the liberal Pakistanis in recent years. It was a grim reminder for the bold voices in the country that even they could meet the same fate. Yet it must be said that even in these dark times, there are several people in Pakistan who are determined to challenge the extremists and win this battle. We want to win this battle for ourselves and for our future generations. We do not want murderers and terrorists such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's (LeJ's) Malik Ishaq, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's (LeT's) Hafiz Saeed and countless others like them roaming freely on our streets. We do not want more Mumtaz Qadris killing people at will, just because they do not agree with someone's views. We do not want the religious right to impose its archaic and barbaric views on the citizens of Pakistan by brute force. This may sound like a regurgitated cliché but what we want is a secular, democratic, liberal, progressive Pakistan. It might be a lost battle but we have to win it at any cost, even if that cost means losing our lives in the process.

(Originally published in Mid Day)

Comments

Well-crafted and quite engaging.

I would like to comment on the following lines in your column:

1: Line: for highlighting the plight of a Christian woman accused of alleged blasphemy.
Comm: Humanity is above all. Religion is for human beings not to control them. There is nothing wrong with the idea of religion but there is something wrong who practices it. when a religion changes its definition from place to place and within different corners of the same building then humanity meets tragic end. These Qadri like extremists and other religious lords above invented their own descriptions, explanations, definitions and understanding of the religion 'ISALM' and their god is different from the God as creator idea present in almost all religions of the world. Religious sentiment is not a serious one, people with congested mind patterns make it serious and dangerous. If I am atheist, that means Qadri like Extremist will tomorrow come forward to kill me. where is my right to choose my own identity? now they will decide what and which idea the people of educated mind have to follow. Human existence is more meaningful and purposeful than following the idea of extremists religious bent of mind. If any one really under blasphemy, then so what still he/she is human to be expressed his views regarding different traditions of religious patterns. Extremism of all kinds and types are not acceptable in any civilized society. it is simply against human nature to follow one extreme of level for other person. In our society, majority doesnt mind their own business. they are the habitual of seeking and acting for others and always for others. But alas! they've forgotten their own importance that the reason they are at any cost get involve in any other person's business. these kinds of people always kill and murder humanity because they are following wrong paths and routes of self invented theories.

2: Line: Pakistan's blasphemy laws are flawed. Majority of those accused of blasphemy are innocent, but once the word 'blasphemous' is attached to someone, he/she either goes to jail, gets lynched and/or is killed.
Comm: First of all i dnt understand what the law is for? and what law is itself? why we need any kind of law? why the very idea of law. yesterday, one of my friends sent me a message quoting Aristotle that, " MAN IS MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL, WHEN HE LIVES WITHOUT LAW, AND WITHOUT JUSTICE."
Ye LO JI!
Now, without Law, man is terrible, why? because law has boundaries to control human nature. if law controls human nature then Law must be condemned. There should be no need of law and justice at all in any society. what is good and what is bad? what is right or wrong? do this and not that? decode by our own people made up of the same flesh we wear but how strange is it to be in a state that one human being follows another human being within chains.
Law is not needed in our society, neither justice. instead we need to change the mental approaches of the common people. Our society need to come out of human differences otherwise the lives are being sacrificed in the name of wrong egos.

you have written your column with full of emotional and psychological lines and great deal of debate can be a new beginning.

Many things to express but running for cigarette.

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