Ab roshni hoti hai ke ghar jalta hai dekhain
Shola sa tawaaf-e-dar-o-deewaar karay hai
- Mir Taqi Mir
[Will it lead to light or the house burning down, we'll have to see
A spark of sorts is circling the walls of our home]
Some people still don't get it. They don't understand why people like us have been so incensed over the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and the deplorable shenanigans that have followed it from those who have felt no shame and have in fact celebrated it and from those who have not come forward to condemn it in the strongest terms. They question why we are insistent on turning a worldly politician into a saint (we aren't) or why Taseer's death has taken precedence over all the other killings taking place in Pakistan (I will explain this). I read recently some comments on the journalists' mailing group PressPakistan where the convenient and insufferably lazy bogey of 'extremists on both sides' has been trotted out to explain demented murderers like the murtid Mumtaz Qadri on the one hand and 'blogs like Cafe Pyala' on the other which have used words to condemn him and his fanatical ilk. Thanks to petty idiots like Hamid Mir and Ansar Abbasi, the term ""liberal fascist" has become part of the lexicon of the average Pakistani commenter who understands neither liberalism nor fascism. Not that Mir or Abbasi understand either, either.
Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about people who were born without any brains or those who chose not to use them. But what people who genuinely don't understand, don't understand is that far more than the murder of one man, Taseer's killing and its glorification by the thekedaars of religion represents the breaking point for a lot of decent people. It represents a challenge to the very idea of a civilized Pakistan, it represents a challenge to the already small space occupied by rationality and logic and tolerance in this country. Those who raise their voices, raise their voices in order not to cede even this space to the madmen. They can either raise their voices now or forever hold their peace. They can either fight or submit to being swamped.
This is perhaps the only silver lining in this shameful episode, that it is forcing people to get off their intellectual (and safe) fences and exposing which side they stand on. And in that it is laying bare the real fight for the soul of Pakistan. Remarkably a fight it is becoming, despite the apparently skewed numbers, despite the mullah brigade's desperate attempts to tamp down the debate. The munafiq-e-deen (hypocrites of religion) may bring out twenty or thirty or forty thousand ill-informed fanatics on to the streets to cow down everyone but it irks them greatly that it still does not stop people from saying what they feel and exposing these thekedaars' hypocrisies, because they know that they cannot win on logic or intellect.
Abbas Athar: standing up and being counted
What is even more fascinating is that this fight is now being played out in the full glare of the media, which itself has become swept up in it. There has been plenty of internal debate and finger-pointing within the media about how this issue has been handled or mishandled. Today there was also news that both Samaa TV and Waqt TV had been fined one million rupees each by the regulatory body PEMRA for broadcasting interviews with Qadri (finally! some backbone from PEMRA). There have been some rather bold op-eds recently by people who have stood up to be counted (and one must give due credit here to the Express Group and its chief editor Abbas Athar who have been far braver and clearer about the stakes than any other media group or editor). But today I want to share two instances of the debate which are from the opposite extremes in that one is raising a questioning voice while the other is attempting to stifle all discussion.
First up are some translated excerpts from journalist Rauf Klasra, writing an op-ed in the Urdu daily Express on the 9th of January. Now, I have to say that I find the venom he directs at Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a bit startling and curious given how close he was rumoured to be to the man but, in all honesty, I cannot say I fault his logic.
“The Tale of A Nation Destroyed by Ifs and Buts”
By Rauf Klasra
"In front of me is Arab News,
’s most widely read English newspaper. The weakness, hypocrisy and expediency the Pakistani media and more than anyone else the parliament and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s government has shown, are sins the Saudi paper has tried to do penance for. The day after Salmaan Taseer’s murder, the paper wrote in its editorial that he was without doubt a shaheed [martyr] who became the victim of the bullets of those religious fanatics who wrongly believe that he perhaps wanted to end the Tauheen-e-Risalat [anti-blasphemy] laws. According to this newspaper, an extremely cruel murderer killed him [Taseer] at the behest of some satanic forces. The paper writes that Salmaan Taseer was a true Muslim and those who killed him and celebrated his death committed an act that is not liked [by God]. According to Arab News, Salmaan Taseer was a brave Muslim who was fighting for truth and justice. The paper has called on the Pakistani nation and its leaders to stand steadfastly against such forces that are fast pushing Saudi Arabia and Islam into darkness. In the paper’s views, real Islam is for justice, truth and respect for humanity. Pakistan ’s prominent newspaper called Salmaan Taseer a shaheed at a time when, besides the immensely respected journalists and columnists Abbas Athar and Najam Sethi, nobody dared refer to the Governor Punjab as a shaheed on the first day. Let alone others, even Yousuf Raza GIlani’s weak and hypocritical government reversed the appellation it gave him on PTV [Pakistan Television] after two hours. The reason given was that someone had called and threatened PTV. So in the face of one threat, the entire state fell to its knees. The editorial in the Saudi newspaper has been printed at a time when not one of the 342 members of the National Assembly have yet had the courage to stand up and condemn this murder [on the floor of the house]. Yousuf Raza Gilani stands up in the National Assembly and thinks it important to offer his comments on every random issue, only for the sake of getting himself into print and on television. But he has not yet felt the need to answer why, when he can go to the MQM headquarters Nine Zero to wash the stains of the Haj scandal from his government’s and his children’s faces, he does not have the time to offer a strong response from the state to this cruel murder. Saudi Arabia
I also well remember the day when, to please the Taliban, the National Assembly was bringing in Nizam-Adl in Malakand Division. The Taliban had threatened that they would themselves deal with anyone who opposed this bill. I saw with my own eyes the atmosphere of terror that pervaded the National Assembly and how all the members of the Assembly stood in line to sell the State and its people to the Taliban by signing the document. I looked everywhere and saw only one brave MNA [Member of National Assembly], whose name is Ayaz Amir. Ayaz Amir stood up and tried to explain to his deaf and dumb colleagues that the deal would make the Pakistani state weaker rather than stronger, that more blood would flow. Nobody listened to his speech. But a few days later, when the Taliban’s bloodletting increased and the State decided on an [military] operation against them, the same MNAs who that day had been submissive cowards, were making such fiery speeches that I could not believe what revolution had occurred in a week’s time. For the first time in my life I saw cowards becoming courageous, and then again last week I saw them silent in the shadow of fear. When the State and its structure have been badly shaken, our representatives’ silence is taking us further towards the abyss.
has now moved miles ahead of us. But neither has anybody in Bangladesh read the historic judgement given by the Bangladesh Supreme Court nor has anyone found the time to discuss it. Under this judgement, religious groups have been banned from taking part in politics, because these groups were bringing religion into disrepute in the name of politics. Pakistan
At first, after every suicide attack, our television stations would run the Taliban spokesmen’s point of view for hours. The spokesmen would explain in great detail why they had killed women, children and [other] human beings in suicide attacks. The bodies of the 72 poor labourers killed in the Wah Ordnance Factory had not yet been identified when a female anchor took the Taliban spokesman live on air in her programme, and after 20 minutes not only thanked him but even said 'Inshallah we will speak to you in the future too.' The meaning was, 'you continue killing poor people with your bombs, we will continue to run your point of view like this.' The same sort of thing is still going on. In the name of taking a point of view, such words are being aired that one cannot comprehend where this media is taking us and why it has become an enemy of its own society and country. This society is being destroyed in the name of sensationalism and ratings. We certainly cannot blame the Pakistani people for the rising fanaticism because they have never given these religious parties the right to rule over them. The way our media is becoming an agent of extremism, one day this same fanaticism will eat it away like termites eat away wood."
Now keeping in mind what Klasra validly says about the media and the
See the difference in the approaches to the question at hand? See the desperation of Bokhari at Nawaz Sharif's refusal to play the game he wanted him to play? See the attempt to shift the debate? At least these two anchor-wankers may have inadvertently stumbled upon / divulged one bit of truth in the midst of their grossly irresponsible and political agenda-driven programme. Remember what was subsequently revealed about the PNA movement, how it had been funded and organized specifically by other forces to topple ZAB?
So this then is the choice. Make yourself heard or let the anchor-wankers define the debate for you.