Pakistan is a State governed by fear
Pakistan is a State governed by the fear of the irrational clergy and even more irrational extremist organisations, says B Raman
At a time when winds of change have been sweeping across many Islamic countries with calls for greater freedom and democracy, winds of hatred continue to sweep across Pakistan.
Pakistan, which has over the years become a breeding ground of beliefs of the most irrational and extreme kind, is helpless in the face of these winds of hatred. These winds have distorted Islam beyond recognition and provided a breeding ground for extremism and Jihadi terrorism of various hues. More murders and crimes of various kinds are committed in Pakistan than in any other Muslim nation of the world.
Unless and until the breeding grounds of hatred from where these winds rise are eliminated, extremism and terrorism will continue to find nourishment in the soil of Pakistan. No amount of change in the other Islamic countries, through which the winds of change have been sweeping, would provide relief to the rest of the world from the scourge of extremism and jihadi terrorism. It is a plague over which the State of Pakistan has no control.
Image: Police and members of the media stand near the bullet-riddled car of slain Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti outside the emergency ward of a hospital in Islamabad
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
Shahbaz Bhatti killed for opposing blasphemy law
This plague claimed one more fatal victim on March 2, 2011, when Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian leader and the Minorities Affair Minister, was shot dead by a group of unidentified assassins as he was being driven to work in Islamabad. Reports from Islamabad indicate that he was travelling in his official car without being escorted by a security team.
He was one of the most threatened members of the Council of Ministers because of his criticism of the blasphemy law which provides for a mandatory death penalty to anyone insulting the Holy Prophet.
The law has come in for strong criticism from liberal elements because the rules of evidence governing trials under it are so flimsy that anybody can be accused and convicted of insulting the Holy Prophet without satisfactory corroborative evidence.
Image: People shout slogans to protest against the killing of Pakistani Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti during a demonstration in Lahore
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters
Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own security guard
Earlier, only insulting the Holy Prophet was considered an act of blasphemy. Now, even criticising the law is treated as an act of blasphemy by extremist elements who do not hesitate to kill anyone doing so.
In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by one of his own security guards because he dared to criticise the law and visited a Christian woman who had been convicted under the law. Death threats have reportedly been made against Pakistan People's Party leader Sherry Rehman for allegedly suggesting amendments in the law.
Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani consoles relatives of slain Shahbaz Bhatti
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
One cannot hope for any salvation for Pakistan
How can one save Pakistan when the assassin of Taseer was not condemned as a murderer, but was hailed as a saviour of Islam by some sections of the population, including lawyers? Organisations such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which have claimed responsibility for the assassination of the Christian minister, and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi look upon it as a God-ordained duty to eliminate anyone who criticises the obnoxious features of the law.
One cannot hope for any salvation for Pakistan from these winds of hatred unless there is a mass uprising to break the stranglehold of these elements over the society and the State. Pakistan is a State governed by fear -- not the fear of despots, but the fear of the irrational clergy and even more irrational extremist organisations. Unless the people are able to rid themselves of this fear and come out in the streets against these organisations, the winds of hatred will continue to blow across the country.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is a country where liberalism is merely a talking point in the drawing rooms of the elite and not a rallying cry for protests in the streets against irrational and extremist elements. It is a gloomy situation from which no exit is in sight.
Image: A supporter of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights holds a placard during a protest in Karachi
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters