January 10, 2011

Where do we go from here?

Pakistan as we all know has in recent days seen a wave of intolerance engulf it. This wave which some say culminated in the death of Salman Taseer started when the late Governor stated that he believed that Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman condemned to death, was innocent and not guilty, and that the case presented against her had been fabricated on flimsy grounds. Whether it was or wasn’t, is another story altogether, but for the purpose of this post it was necessary to mention Aasia Bibi’s sordid story.

Aasia Bibi is a Christian. The Pakistani population comprises overwhelmingly of Muslims. These Muslims comprise almost 95 – 98% of the population. Figures vary but almost everyone agrees that the number lies somewhere in the middle. So we’ve established thus far that Pakistan is a country of the Muslims, by the Muslims and for the Muslims. How then is it possible that the Muslims of this country feel threatened by a minority? How is it possible that their “Emaan” is threatened by a mother of five kids? I know people will say the honour of the Holy Prophet (SAW) reigns supreme over all other matters. Well no one is denying that. But consider the following: Every sane man, woman and even child in this country knows that saying anything blasphemous could result in immediate death. How then is it possible that people (barring insane people) would utter anything blasphemous?

And once again, why was Salman Taseer gunned down? I do not believe he had said anything blasphemous. Or is everyone celebrating because he was a corrupt man who deserved to die? I still haven’t forgotten the Christian family which was murdered under the charge of blasphemy because its 11 year old son went to buy groceries from a “Muslim’s” shop; and neither have I forgotten the desecration meted out to Prem Chand’s coffin. The only trouble I have is I refuse to believe the hardliners when they suggest that Islam condones murder and wilful decimation and desecration of human life.

The harsh reality that we’ve come to see is that Pakistan does not have a silent majority of peace loving citizens. Apparently the silent majority is quite content at the murder of the Governor of Punjab. So what’s left then? A silent minority which will continue to suffer in silence because it does not have the resources, the will power, or the lack of morals which will allow it to meet fire with fire. More importantly though, the question that needs to be answered is where do we go from here?

As crazy as this may sound, I believe sticking to the current democratic government is our best bet. Hoping that this government can stick out its mandated 5 years in the Parliament will give this country a shot in the arm. You see despite its utter competence and shortcomings, we at least have a political government. One which feels the heat when pressure is applied, and cowers at the thought that it might be left alone in the centre, and therefore out of power. The recent drama by MQM is a case in point. The reality is that even though Salman Taseer’s death symbolises the death of many things, including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the safeguards assured to the minorities, the incumbent government’s tenure’s completion will ensure that in 2013 the people of Pakistan are better informed and better decided to make the decision that will alter the course of their destinies. Mid way Parliamentary change will only help in reinforcing the view that only the army and its lackeys can run this government.

Democracy is indeed our best bet. The Facebook status of a friend is an apt description of our dilemma today: 
“Sometimes you’re not at a crossroad. Instead, you’re standing on top of a cliff right at the edge overlooking a never ending abyss of darkness.”