Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Guest Post- Sympathy for the Devil: Salman Taseer, My Governor!

My good friend Ali Gibran posted the following note on his Facebook regarding the recent assassination of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan Salman Taseer, who was killed by one of his own guards apparently motivated by religious fervor as Taseer had previously called for a rethinking of Pakistan's blasphemy laws in response to the death sentence given to Pakistani Christian Aasia Bibi.

I have decided to republish the note here as I think it is more than well worth the read.
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Sympathy for the Devil: Salman Taseer, My Governor!
Ali Gibran

I write from a world, which mimics closely a general perception of Dystopia, something straight out of Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I write from a time which essentially is present but is shrouded by prehistoric mindset of a barbaric hunter gatherer society. The news before me is on the fringes of sanity because I live in times of logic and laws but not humanity. Perverse and heinous are the proceedings of the incident and it stands to ridicule the very fabric of our society.

There is nothing divine about killing someone, be it a self proclaimed Prophet, Satan’s spawn or an ordinary mortal of devious religious inclinations. Today, we have the Governor of Punjab Mr. Salman Taseer who was executed by his own guard for the sole reason that he championed the case of a Christian woman alleged to have committed blasphemy. This act earned him a place, a special place in the heart of some Pakistanis, a place where most of us would not like to be. That place is the “hit list” of fundamentalist Muslims. The pious muslim bodyguard of the Governor acted with the help of the divine and successfully executed a fellow muslim.

Mr. Taseer had been around in the political arena for over three decades but the only reason that he had a place in my universe was because of his witty outspoken outbursts of rational and liberal thought in public discourses. Liberalism is something which is an increasingly rare commodity in the present day Pakistan and he was amongst the last of the influential liberals of Pakistan. His public persona was quite interesting especially when it came to enjoying the finer things in life. He owned a newspaper and every week in the Sunday edition of the paper there would be pictures of him and his parties. He was a man of wealth and taste. But it did not come easy to him; he was put in jail many times as a political prisoner. He had the honor of being taken to the basement of the Lahore fort, famous for its tortures of political dissidents. But it was not all sour for him, the sweet in the form of wealth, influence and style were certainly a part of his personality.

Two months ago, during the case of Aasia bibi, he was perhaps the only Government Functionary who vehemently supported a complete pardon for the poor soul. Thus committing a crime for which he was executed today. Aasia Bibi was a Christian accused of blaspheming against the Prophet of Islam which entitled her to capital punishment in Pakistan under the Article 295 section C of Pakistan Penal Code. So far it was customary to only award the punishment to those who were directly alleged for blaspheming but this is the first time that it has been awarded to a person who committed blasphemy against the blasphemy act. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asia_Bibi)

The debate about Blasphemy and Free Speech is almost non-existent in Pakistani context. The concept of free speech is probably considered to be something vulgar in a hypocritical state of affairs that we are in. The articles 295-B, 295-C, 298-A, 298-B and 298-C are generally referred to as Blasphemy Laws (the others being 295 and 295-A). Even a quick look at them for any student (not of Law in particular rather just any person who can reason) will introduce them to the tyranny wreaked by such insult to common sense. By the very definition of 295-C, a strong case can be built against all the non-Muslims in Pakistan who do not believe in the veracity of the divine claim of the Holy Prophet thus rendering the laws redundant and out of line with pluralism-friendly interpretations of Islam. But that would happen in a free country where free and fair judiciary is permitted to operate. Here, the very sense of rationality is probably derived from what is considered to be irrational by most scientists of our age. Mr. Salman Taseer had the courage and the audacity to call these laws BLACK LAWS which is something totally unheard of in our political and public discourse. He was brave or more appropriately insane enough to reveal it to the public and the media that these laws are man made and may not be representation of Divine Will as is generally believed. Now he lies in the grave, a true martyr for a just cause. Poor fellow if he was in a country of mildly conscientious beings, in time they would have erected statues to honor him, built schools, colleges and hospitals in his names but in Pakistan his memory will be tarnished and he will be soon forgotten just like so few (sic!) others before him.
(http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/1860/actXLVof1860.html)

At the moment, what is even more distasteful is the lack of outspoken condemnation of the incident by our political and religious figures. Yes, they are condemning the incident, but unfortunately in the same breath all of them add their views about the holiness of Blasphemy Laws and how Mr. Taseer should not have called them black. Then there is something which is absolutely sinister: the short text messages circulating on the cell phones congratulating the nation of good riddance from such Fitna.

It appears that all our leaders are scared for their life for now they are playing a character in Fight Club. Tyler Durden is telling them “We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us” and they are frightened because here instead of Brad Pitt playing the role of Tyler, every other bearded muslim cleric is a potential candidate for role of Mr. Durden. Today our leaders have displayed fear and cowardice for they were unable to denounce the injustice and atrocity with the courage of their conviction instead they chose to beat about the bush but that will be the surviving legacy of Mr. Taseer who had the guts to condemn inhumanity and injustice like a brave man, in the time when it mattered the most.

I like to believe that the inability of our leaders is due to fear but that is an assumption. In case if this assumption is not true and our leaders truly believe that Mr. Taseer should not have expressed his views about the Black Laws, then my dear friends Pakistan is gone case already. And if on top of that this act was divinely ordained, then the fate of this universe is a gone case too … and I denounce such divinity. We are now a generation of degenerates and ideologically crippled and Mr. Taseer was lucky enough to escape just in time.

Farewell Mr. Taseer. You were a brave man!

1 comment:

  1. I truly felt bad for Mr.Taseer, as I would for any human being dying in such a state. If Salman Taseer had proposed the true Islamic injunction to replace what he alleged to be man-made laws outside of the Shariah, that would have painted him under a totally different light.
    Instead, he proposed the secular ideals of non-compliance with religion, which Pakistan is built upon.
    It is not for us to determine what he 'deserved', but only for God to Judge him.

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