Dominance Without Toleration II

“Most people in this country – and I am not talking about the lunatic fringe – are moderate.”

Those words echo; now that the one who uttered them, the Governor of Punjab (the most populous state in Pakistan), lies dead at the hands of his own guard. Salmaan Taseer was many things, but most recently, he was a champion of a particular strand of liberal, secular discourse in a country where such voices are dwindling down to nothing. He was a minority because he chose to stand next to the Christian and Hindu minorities who are denied basic protection in their own nation.

This is a great loss. Let us remember the man, for what he chose to do and say. This is an excerpt from an interview he gave on December 23, 2010 in the Newsline:

Q: Why did you take up Aasiya Bibi’s case?

A: Aasiya Bibi’s case is particularly relevant. She is a woman who has been incarcerated for a year-and-a half on a charge trumped up against her five days after an incident where people who gave evidence against her were not even present. So this is a blatant violation against a member of a minority community. I, like a lot of right-minded people, was outraged, and all I did was to show my solidarity. It is the first time in the history of the Punjab that a governor has gone inside a district jail, held a press conference and stated clearly that this is a blatant miscarriage of justice and that the sentence that has been passed is cruel and inhumane. I wanted to take a mercy petition to the president, and he agreed, saying he would pardon Aasiya Bibi if there had indeed been a miscarriage of justice.

Q: You have been criticised for circumventing the legal process.

A: Yes, particularly by a television talk show host. I would like to ask that host if some maulvi accused her of blasphemy and she spent a year-and-a half in jail and was then offered a presidential pardon, would she turn around and say, “no wait until my appeal has been heard.” This kind of ‘mummy daddy’ approach is probably fine for others, but I wonder if she would apply it to herself. I don’t think I have circumvented anything; all I have done is to draw everyone’s attention to this case. I have also showed my solidarity with minority communities who are being targeted by this law and, in doing so, I have sent across a strong message.

I have received thousands of messages from people from all walks of life. The result can only be good. This law that no one dared speak about is now being discussed, criticised and its repeal sought. I have heard anchors, journalists, members of civil society, people like Ghamdi, Imran Khan even Rana Sanaullah and many more saying amendments are required. The important thing to remember is that this is a man-made law, not a God-made one. What I find particularly distasteful is that when you speak of amendment, people assume you condone the crime. If I am against the death sentence, it does not mean I condone murder.

Q: Do you advocate repeal of those provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code better known as the Blasphemy Law?

A: If you want my personal opinion, I don’t like this law at all. I understand we are working in a coalition government and that being the case what we can do is to amend the law in such a way that the maker of a false accusation is tried under the same law. There should also be a proper filtration process where someone like a DCO should confirm that there is a case to answer. This will help ensure that pressure from maulvis and fanatics does not result in the victimisation of helpless people. One of the maulvis demonstrating against me said that they killed Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a judge who released someone accused of blasphemy. Surely, at the very least, he should be tried for incitement to murder.

Q: Yes, but the perpetrators get away…

A: The real problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. This also gives us a bad name in the world.

Also see, Domination without Toleration.

12 Replies to “Dominance Without Toleration II”

  1. Dear Aadil W,
    in my response to your input, I left out my appreciation.
    Thank you for your thoughts.
    For those who truly believe, but who cannot accept a legalistic literal understanding, these are challenging times.
    If you are presently living in Pakistan, stay safe.

  2. When those favouring a textual and legalistic interpretation of the religion are happy, willing and able to encourage their followers to murder others, to murder those who are interested in discussing the possibility of a more reason-based and ‘humanistic’ vision, it is unlikely that any of the diaspora academics are likely to return to Pakistan, save those who are pleased with such murders.
    As I understand things, academics living in the diaspora who encourage a more reason-based and ‘humanistic’ vision of the religion are being threatened, and feel threatened, where they presently live. They are most unlikely to take the further, huge risk, of moving to Pakistan.
    When, I ask, is it time to abandon ship ?
    Whether one uses a Buddhist, secular, Confucian, Christian or Shinto template around which to organize society, or any one of dozens of others, there is plenty of choice.

  3. Dear Scarf,

    As I see it, a lot of the debate over Taseer’s assassination and the blasphemy law actually obscures a more important tension; that of the tension between a textual and legalistic interpretation of the religion and a more reason-based and ‘humanistic’ vision. Unfortunately there seem to be very few people in Pakistan who can engage with the massive number of issues at play here comprehensively, sensitively and authoratatively. It is my humble yet urgent wish that more diaspora academics would come and spend some time in Pakistan and think these things out.


  4. ” most people in this country …..are moderate “.
    And most people in Pakistan, the moderate people, are silent, for very obvious reasons.
    It’s reasonable to believe that during the grotesque reigns of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein, other than in periods of national emergency, most of the ruled were moderates who would have changed the regime; they too were silent, for the same reasons.
    On the one hand, the moderates in Pakistan are fortunate, in that the civil authorities are not supporting the tyranny, which is not to say that they are opposing it either, but there is not a government run nazi gestapo to enforce the tyranny.
    On the 0ther hand, the Pakistani tyranny is enforced, not as a human ideology which can be debated and debunked, but as Allah’s immutable word and way, by the sizable minority for whom that is true.
    Opposing Hitler had a higher probability of ultimate success.
    There were many millions of Germans who became ex nazis – they had come to realize the bankruptcy of that ideology.
    There are tens of millions of Russians who have become ex communists – they have come to realize the bankruptcy of that ideology.
    Not that there were not some positive aspects to those two ideologies, but overall, they were damaging templates around which to organize a society.
    Will I live to see the day that tens of millions of Pakistanis become ex ”””””””””; is it possible they will see that there are other, far superior, templates around which to organize a society ?
    Frankly, I don’t think so.
    Even those who write here, who are certainly educated, bright people, cannot bring themselves to face the truth.
    Germany, today, does not allow the teaching of naziism, not even a moderate variety; moderate nazi ideology taught in school to children will produce a percentage of extremist nazi young adults, and it only took a minority of extremist nazi adults to take over Germany the last time.
    How many of those who study a moderate version of the ideology that tyrranizes Pakistan read and re-read the books, and come to the conclusion that their moderate parents or teachers are not real ”””””” , because they are not doing what they have been specifically instructed to do.
    And how many of those youngsters, in the west at least, have decided to show their parents and teachers what a real ””””” is, through their actions, actions which follow instructions that they are not supposed, according to the moderates, to follow.
    I don’t want to be hurtful or disrespectful to those here, but that is how i see things and i’d be interested to read your thoughts.

  5. @omar, regarding your article. great analysis but two points.

    1. Chinese worker were also accused of blasphemy when they were taken
    hostages. So this will no go away when America leaves. Don’t worry
    most of the minorities will leave anyway. How does Pakistan reconcile
    with Chinese eating pork and loving dogs. Yet Chinese are not consider evil.
    That will be your next challenge as China has take over Pakistan inch by inch.
    How will you like your new master.
    2. Capitalism is how civilization works meaning a pyramid scheme.
    It is not a modern construct. Only thing modern world has brought is
    cheap fuel and food thus population going from 1 billion to 7 billion.
    Modern world won’t last but another 20 years as the Oil disappears.
    So you are not fixing it long term.

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