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Hold of the Past

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Hold of the Past

by Ali Khan on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 8:44pm

On Tuesday, hope died in Pakistan. Salman Taseer, whatever his flaws, was a courageous progressive; a rare breed in the increasingly radical Pakistani society. While others minced words about the sheer hypocrisy and extremism in our society, Mr. Taseer openly criticized and condemned the convolution of dark forces plaguing Pakistan. And he complimented the province of his governorship, for Punjab deserves men like him who possess the lively charm the land of five rivers is famous for. Salman Taseer died a martyr, a true martyr unlike many, because he raised his voice for the helpless, and for reason.

Mr. Taseer’s murder has raised the existential question for Pakistan: What kind of nation is Pakistan supposed to be? Will we honor the founder of the nation at long last and create a more equitable and liberal one or slowly turn into a theocratic state directly or indirectly ruled by up-to-no-good Mullahs? The answer and subsequent actions supporting it will determine the fate of this cursed land.

The following is quoted from Mr. Jinnah’s address to the 1st constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947:

“The first observation that I would like to make is this… the first duty of a Government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State. I cannot emphasize it too much…You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State”

History provides ample evidence that only progressive leaning societies and nations prosper.  It is interesting to note that in some instances clergy actually played a forward-looking role in advancing out-of-the-box thinking. Today’s clergy and their herds in the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular, by contrast, are striving to put a stop on any progress and turn back the clock of time. In doing so, they have suffocated people’s lives and aspirations for a better future. Any peace that follows the current war will be the ‘peace of a graveyard’ if these angels of darkness prevail.

It is tempting to blame politicians for the political point-scoring that followed Mr. Taseer’s death. But the hard fact remains that the large segments of the population (the constituencies) shamefully supports the murderer, with some clergymen even forbidding prayers for the dead man! It would be nice to see someone with the spine and leadership to stand up and be counted but is unlikely to happen.

The society must also re-evaluate its concept of heroes and villains. Success in business and other careers should be applauded. Pakistan is not a communist or socialist state and has a robust ownership society, with about 90% of national income coming from private ownerships. Granted, the income inequality plays a huge rule in the frustration felt by the have-nots but that is largely due to corruption and a legal system ( and poor enforcement of laws) that stifles growth and confidence. Those who take up arms in anger over real or perceived injustices and miraculously justify their actions by some very questionable theology are mere criminals, not robinhoods. The real heroes are the creators of businesses and opportunity and people like Imran Khan before his re-incarnation as a born-again agitator of everything.

In the absence of guts from politicians, would it be a ‘conspiracy against democracy’ to look to the ‘saviors of Pakistan’ with a plea? The army is the only institution with the strength and, hopefully, some spine, to take the lunatics head on.  Besides, the Army has unfinished business from Musharraf’s era.  Gen. Musharraf routinely claimed that ‘we have cleaned the terrorists from our cities and towns’, implying rather naively that the threat had been neutralized.

The real solution to the menace of terrorism and extremism is to strike at the heart of its ideology. If Mr. Taseer could face and answer some very tough (and sometimes personal) questions from the students of GC, Lahore, why can’t some Mullah be subjected to the same scrutiny? It is high time we honor Salman Taseer by initiating an open debate about the role of religion in the state. The unearned privileges of Mullahs and their kin must be questioned. They have turned the prophet into an antique that is popular to own but need not be examined critically. If they have their way, an idol of Muhammad (SA) will make its way in Kaaba in a few hundred years and turn into a Buddha or Ram in a thousand years.

Between 2007 and 2009, more than 5500 civilians have died in terrorist acts in Pakistan.There has been a constant rise in terrorism since 2001.Is this a new normal for Pakistan? It will be if Pakistanis continue to treat it as a foreign problem and blame everything on CIA, Mossad and RAW. To wait until every line is crossed by the lunatics is like waiting for a blast that takes the life of a beloved one.

Pakistanis are not bedouins by nature and do not need to involve themselves in never-ending conflicts that only keep them from realizing their full potential. In an era when younger population is considered an enormous asset, Pakistan, with its median age of 21, must shed the hold of the past and move forward. The unbaptized are happy living in a deficient form of heaven. The so-called silent majority has been silent too long, living on the shores on Acheron. Its time they answer the call of their conscience and honor Salman Taseer’s legacy.

Categories: Society and Religion