By Mehr F Husain & Sonya Rehman
Salmaan Taseer is dead. Another mindless, inhumane assassination whose blood will further stain the already tarnished image of a country that has long been struggling vis-à-vis internal and external forces.
Brash businessman, pithy politician, flamboyant father are but mere labels to a personality whose life was larger than life itself. Taseer bravely opened his life for all to see via ‘Sunday’ – his newspaper’s popular art/fashion magazine – published every weekend. He communicated with his supporters and critics alike via Twitter, thereby eradicating any third person interference which could potentially water down his bluntness.
Born into a humble household, he climbed his way up that capitalist ladder and bore the physical and mentally tortured marks of a dedicated jiyala, only to find himself finally at the position many others in the country can just about spell, let alone dream of achieving.
And in typical Taseer style, he conducted the role of the Governor of Punjab with a controversial, flamboyant wave that supporters rode on and critics got washed away in the tide.
The outpour of grief and rage over his demise has been immense. Pakistanis have flooded their Facebook and Twitter statuses with messages of anger, despair and hopelessness over this heartless, barbaric murder.
On the other hand, contrary opinions to Taseer’s death seem just as ghastly as the murder itself. Facebook groups and communities have sprouted like mushrooms in chilling support for the murderer, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, hailing him as ‘hero’!
This very encouragement, by so-called ‘educated’ Pakistanis leaves one sickened and distraught at the same time. As soon as the news of Taseer’s murder began doing the circuit, Facebook statuses were vociferously updated to congratulatory statuses – lauding the mad man for saving the nation, lauding the criminal for wiping out a ‘corrupt’ politician, and lauding the murderer for giving the Governor what he deserved. Shocking. Repulsive. Chilling.
These virtual pats on the back of the perpetrator are no different from the countless who showered the executor with rose petals after Qadri testified to the crime in the Anti-Terrorist court in Rawalpindi this month.
What’s interesting is that these very individuals appreciate Qadri not for killing a man whom the proud, indifferent Qadri describes as being “Gustakh-e-Rasool”, but for killing Taseer, the man, the husband, the father, the Governor himself.
So one wonders, what was it that caused people to be attracted to him? And what has caused so many to mourn a man that was once scorned at during the Sharif years, criticised for shameless self-publicity and hated for his apparent lack of morals?
Politically, was it Taseer the somewhat controversial Governor? Ideologically, was it Taseer the ‘pipliya’ and the liberal? Economically was it Taseer the businessman? Socially, was it his open, excessive lifestyle that shattered the unwritten rules that govern the average Pakistani Muslim’s life? Morally, was it his stand on the Christian woman’s case and rejection of the blasphemy law despite having a fondness for a life that didn’t stick to mainstream Islamic rules?
It’s crucial we make this distinction because it’s apparent that things are not going to improve or change for the better in Pakistan.
The sole voice that stood up for minorities was silenced by a man of the same Islamic sect. This bodes ill for the future of the minorities within Pakistan – for whatever little support they had was shot down with 27 bullets. As with all things related to civil society, the blasphemy law does need to be regulated for it is often used more to settle petty differences rather than bring about a glorified version of Islam.
One keeps hearing cries of the majority being moderate but if that were the case, why do Facebook groups and online support for Qadri keep mushrooming? The blasphemy law has been around for decades and no one did anything about it.
Does that mean that hypocrisy is more ingrained within us than we realise? Or that the roots of a perverse form of Islam are entrenched so deeply in us that while aesthetic disloyalty of Islamic principles demonstrated by Taseer are tolerated, that substantial change – as advocated also by the same man – are not?
Taseer’s demise represents so much more than the silencing of a valiant soul who took on a controversial issue. The vicious attack represents a punch in the gut of an ideology, an economic system, a lifestyle, a dream, and a democratic State.
Which one do you mourn for?