EDITORIAL: The courage of Taseer
Pakistan was still reeling from the shock of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s assassination when his murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, revealed that he had informed his colleagues about the murder plot. Qadri said that he had asked them to let him finish his ‘job’ and then arrest him alive. An FIR against Qadri was lodged by the governor’s son, Mr Shehryar Taseer, wherein it was stated that some political and religious groups were giving threats to the governor and should be held responsible for his murder. A one day remand of Qadri has been granted. There are speculations that more than one magazine of bullets were fired on Governor Taseer. The post-mortem report is not being made public for the time being due to investigative concerns. It seems that the security staff was complicit in Mr Taseer’s murder, which is why there was no response from any one of them. The implications of such a huge security lapse are grave. How could no one possibly find out about Qadri’s plan to assassinate a sitting governor is something hard to digest. The security for a VVIP has to be vetted first by the authorities. If a lunatic like Qadri was allowed to ‘guard’ Governor Taseer, there must be deeper reasons behind it. Qadri might have been a lone assassin but the investigation must find out who masterminded this plan. We of course have no dearth of religious zealots. There are reports that some other liberal, enlightened people are next on the hit-list of these bigots. This means that there is a wider conspiracy afoot and unless Qadri is meted out the punishment that is due under the law, and that too quickly, this murderous trend of issuing senseless edicts and subsequent assassinations would continue. A deterrent message is necessary to curb further threats to the lives of liberal Muslims in our narrow-minded society.
Punjab Governor Taseer had been condemned by the right-wingers since the day he met a Christian woman charged with alleged blasphemy, Aasia Bibi, in jail. Aasia Bibi had been given the death penalty by a lower court. Mr Taseer wanted President Zardari to grant her a pardon on humanitarian grounds. He also asked for the Blasphemy Law to be amended or repealed. The mullahs bayed for his blood after that and issued fatwas against him, declaring him wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of murder). Governor Taseer argued that the law was misused and not only affected the minorities but many Muslims too were implicated on false charges under this flawed law. Religious scholars like Ghamdi are of the view that the blasphemy law is a man-made law and can be amended. Death threats did not deter Governor Taseer, who vowed to fight bigotry even if, as he put it himself, he were “the last man standing”. Even in death, the mullah brigade did not leave Mr Taseer alone. The Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan (JASP) not only praised Mr Taseer’s murderer but also issued a statement that said, “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salmaan Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident.” If this is not uncivilised behaviour, then what is? Islam does not condone murdering innocent people and to use the religion card in this derogatory way as JASP has done is not just disgusting but completely contradictory to the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH).
Some sections of the media too were complicit in inciting hate against Governor Taseer. They virtually asked for some sort of reprisal against him, which is the height of irresponsibility. Even after Mr Taseer’s death, some television channels and print media tried to justify his assassination. Governor Salmaan Taseer’s was a voice of reason and sanity. When our media and right-wing parties stoop to such levels and most people just sit idly and watch silently, it points to our collective failure as a society. Mr Taseer was a man of valour and great courage. He stood up for the rights of the oppressed when no one else would. We should not dishonour his sacrifice. We must all condemn the killer and the barbarians who are out to mute the liberal, progressive voices of Pakistan. *
SECOND EDITOIRAL: An uncaring opposition
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has demonstrated how lacking in social decorum and sensitivity it is. The PML-N has set a six-day deadline for the PPP to accept its demands if it wishes to stay in power. In normal circumstances, this diatribe would be seen as the PML-N fitting neatly into its role of opposition for the sake of opposition, but at this sad moment in the history of this blighted country, the PML-N has shown just how nasty it can be. Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was viciously gunned down on Tuesday. The contempt with which members of the PML-N held Mr Taseer is well known but, no matter what, Salmaan Taseer was a member of the political fraternity and as such the PML-N organising committee ought to have paid the man some respect. Their ‘do or die’ session should have been cancelled on hearing the news of the governor’s assassination. However, they have categorically said that the PPP will be given a mere three days to decide upon the conditions put forth after the official three-day mourning period is over. The PML-N has clearly shown that it does not have a heart when it comes to politics; imagine the heart it has for the masses if it cannot restrain itself after the death of an upstanding human being.
Has the PML-N forgotten that without the PPP, it does not stand a chance of maintaining its coalition government in Punjab? Who is to say that early elections will not usher in an even more fractured coalition? Is the PML-N ready for the consequences of its haste?
It looks like these and other questions have escaped the PML-N. In its list of demands, the PML-N has told the PPP to reverse inflation but has failed to put forward any plan. If it expects the economic woes of Pakistan to be dismissed with a snap of the PPP’s fingers, it labours under a delusion. It further stated that a 30 percent cut in government spending be immediately initiated. Has it told the public why this odd figure has been chosen? We would all like to see POL prices reduced but has the PML-N charted out how the government will meet the budget deficit without this and the RGST? If the PML-N is so people-friendly, we implore it to outline its plans. We also hope it can show some sensitivity in the future. *