Dream of a secular, Pak stands shattered
Men, Matters & Memories
By ML Kotru
From now on there shall be no Hindus, no Muslims, no Sikhs or Christians in this land. We shall all be Pakistanis, free to pray in our temples, mosques, gurudwaras and Churches. Words similar to these, uttered on realisation of his dream of Pakistan by Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. I have the text at Jinnah's broadcast to his nation on the night it was founded but somehow am unable to lay my hands on it now.
I find that inexcusable, losing track of historic documents. But what do you make of an entire people, over 160 million of them, who choose to ignore the inspiring voice raised by the father of their nation at the end of what they had all perceived to be an acknowledgment of the Qaid's call for a separate homeland for Muslims. Ultimately, though, it turns out that India continues to have the world's second largest Muslim population, next only to that of Indonesia. But that's neither here nor there.
The fact is that Jinnah's dream of a secular, tolerant Pakistan stands shattered today. The pygmies who followed him ensured that the dream turns into a nightmare, that Pakistan becomes a land of bigots, with moderates, the civil society that believed in Jinnah's dream, reduced to a dumb, helpless minority.
And the worst part of it is that the bigots, the Jihadists have taken hold of the country with the Armed Forces choosing to standby and the police and other paramilitary forces willing to do the bidding of the Jihaddist mullahs. The politicians, helpless as they seem, are only too busy protecting their fiefs, hopelessly and helpless. Sad but true that the country's military is currently the only other force left which can show the rabid Jihadists their place. Unfortunate though it is for that country that the military for the present is intent only on giving the civilians long enough rope to hang themselves with.
Strange, though, that the Army should stand by when the police attacks its own academies or when the man assigned to the detail protecting the Punjab Governor, Mr, Salman Taseer, should virtually applaud when one of its members turns his gun on the Governor, asking his other uniformed colleagues not to kill him (the murderer) because he would surrender to them after he is done with Taseer the man who perhaps was among the most popular of Benazir Bhutto's immediate friends.
Salman Taseer, by all accounts, was a good man, a hardnosed politician a successful businessman who had seen many ups and downs, survived Gen Ziaul Haq's ire which had seen him jailed. Nearly forgot to explain the opening of this piece: post-partition Jinnah's hope for a secular Pakistan. Salman Taseer it appears committed the ultimate sin of being seen to be sympathetic to a Chiristian woman farmer who had been ordered to be killed for having blasphemed Islam. The Governor had dared to call the ill-starred woman to inquire after her welfare.
This obviously was unacceptable to the Mullahs whose book saw even a sympathizer of the person uttering a blasphemors word as equally guilty and hence the policeman expected to protect who Governor Salman Taseer instead killed him. Imagine the zealot's bigotry : he pumped 27 rounds into the hapless Governor.
According to Taseer's daughter whose moving tribute to her father speared in "Newsweek Pakistan" and the "New York Times " : " It may sound odd, but I can't imagine my father dying any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan giving livelihood to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country's potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honour his memory those who share that belief in Pakistan's future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.
One couldn't agree more with the young Sheharbano, the daughter, reading the paragraph preceding the one above : "To say that there was a security lapse on Tuesday is an understatement. My father was brutally gunned down by a man hired to protect him. Juvenal once asked: Who will guard the guards themselves?. It is a question all Pakistanis should aks themselves today, If the extremists could get the Governor of the largest (Pakistan's) province, is anyone safe?"
My thoughts immediately turn to the safety of Benazir's close friend and a Minister until some months ago in the Zardari's government, Sherry Rahman. She has moved a private member's bill in Pakistan National Assembly to amend (soften) the blasphemy law. A very bright woman I can only pray for her safety given the jihadist fervour in Pakistan. Probably like Taseer, Sherry too believes that the strict blasphemy laws instituted by Gen Zia have been frequently misused and ought to be changed. Taseer's views were widely misrepresented to give the impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad. There are many who in Taseer's daughter's words believe that with his death the final nail in the coffin of a tolerant Pakistan had been stuck. That liberal values in that country would now be silenced. "But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others…" The basic problem in Pakistan today is that old one : If you are not with us, you are with them.
Being a liberal in Pakistan does not necessarily mean that you are pro-India. Jinnah by that yard-stick would never have achieved his objective. Those who lived with Jinnah during his times tell you that you would have to run miles to find as liberal a Muslim as Jinnah. It is those that followed him who have altered his vision of Pakistan so drastrically.
The blasphemy law was for instance introduced by Gen Ziaul Haq; the ban on liquor was imposed of all people by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto whose drinking bouts were legend, next only to Gen. Yahya Khan's. When Pakistan altered its weekily off days from Sunday to Friday someone who pointed out that this would mean loss of three business days in commerce, banking etc. internationally; he was probably rushed to the nearest mental hospital.
Salman Taseer by all accounts was a true Pakistani who like most Pakistanis coveted Kashmir singlemindedly. May be his father's time as the Principal of Srinagar's, Sri Pratap College had something to do with it. Incidentally Dr. Taseer, the father, escorted Ghulam Mohammed Bakshi and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq to Lahore to help them get across to the Muslim League leadership. The mission did not work and Principal Taseer stayed back in Lahore sending Bakshi and Sadiq back to India. One of Salman's sons is from a non-Muslim Indian woman. Aatish Taseer, who was in India recently, has authored his first book which partially dwells on his upbringing as a Muslim in Pakistan and in a Sikh house in Delhi.