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Remembering a martyr... By Masood

04 January, 2014

Many people feel that had the founder of Pakistan M A Jinnah survived a few more years after the Subcontinent's division, he might also have earned the title of a blasphemer for his August 11, 1947 speech wherein he declared that all Pakistanis are free to go to their places of worship; they may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state.

In my opinion, Jinnah's advice to the legislators of the Constituent Assembly was quite in line with the wisdom outlined in the Holy Quran wherein it was declared in no ambiguous tone that, "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" (109:6). However, over a period of time military dictators and politicians found recourse to perpetuate their grip over the state by dividing Pakistani society on religious and sectarian lines. This dangerous game, which started during the military dictator Ziaul Haq's regime, has become such a minefield that no one tried to touch the blasphemy and the other so-called religious laws enforced by him.

Today on January 4, three years ago, a brave Pakistani leader sacrificed his life for a poor woman who was implicated in a blasphemy case. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in broad daylight by his own security guard Mumtaz Qadri, who not only killed him at point blank range but also remained there at the murder scene to pronounce his pride for this action. Later, the very people who are supposed to be safeguarding the law — the lawyers of Rawalpindi, garlanded Qadri when he was produced in a court to face murder charges.

Before these laws were forcibly made part of Pakistan's constitution, no one had heard of blasphemy cases in the country. However, an upsurge of such cases in the last three decades tells us something else. Pakistan became intolerant toward its religious communities as a number of miscreants used these laws to take revenge, settle disputes, murder and ruin family and business opponents. As we remember Salmaan Taseer today, we feel ashamed that his brave act to save his fellow helpless citizen from the religious zealots was in vain. Pakistan did not learn any lesson from his horrific murder. Instead, miscreants and extremists got a lifeline that not only they can go scot-free by murdering and economically destroying the masses but any politician or outspoken person who comes in their way will also face death. The dark night which gripped the State of Pakistan in the 1980s has continued till today; no one sees light at the end of the tunnel as more and more communities have joined the ongoing daily mayhem and mourning in the name of religion.

MASOOD KHAN
Jubail, Saudi Arabia

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