Articles of the year 2009

Protecting Islam
Published on September 26th, 2009

The best news coming from the Governor House Punjab is that Governor Salman Taseer is zeroing in on the evil that is perpetrated undercover of the Blasphemy law. Amongst the many legacies left for us by the late Ziaul Haq were the Taliban, the militarization of Islam, and the spread of this militancy to all the corners of the world. Having first instilled Islamic fundamentalism into the government functionaries, this was soon converted into official policy. Generations of Pakistanis were pushed by this policy into a more widespread and deeper practice of Islam. This indoctrination brought militancy into a normally pacifist religion as practiced earlier by the bulk of the Muslim population of Indo-Pakistan, for hundreds of years. Militancy was foreign to the Indian Muslims, for arriving in India as the conquering barbarians, the invaders soon lost their aggression, and were calmed into a pacifist mode as the other invaders that had come before them. This aggression is alien to the Pakistani, and has been brought about after decades of training at the hands of Uzbek, Chechen, Afghani and Arab warriors, who brought a vicious murderous twist to the militancy. It has brought infamy to the once benign image of Islam. For more than a thousand years Islam has flourished without such laws, and will continue to do so for many more years. As the word of God it needs no such protection. For Almighty Allah is the greatest protector of all. In the Zia regime, the Blasphemy laws had been passed by an Assembly intent upon proving themselves to be more loyal than the King. They brought laws in ostensibly to protect Islam from infidels, but mainly to use the blasphemy laws as a cover for extortion and for coercion. This has resulted in the burning of Temples and Churches, and of worshippers, Christians and Hindus. Many farms were taken over under the same excuse, with officialdom taking the side of the mob. Exposing many international NGOs doing charity work in Pakistan to murderous attacks, hampering social workers that are so desperately required in the rural areas.

The Blasphemy law has been unnecessary. Worse, it has been open to misuse from day one. Every action under this law has served to show the world how intolerant Islam is, as if this great dynamic religion needs to be protected by a few misguided bigots. They did damage Islam by their mindless rampaging.

Salman Taseer has rightly pointed out that this law should be removed and President Asif Ali Zardari should, in keeping with the secular manifesto, remove this black law from the books. Governor Salman is the right man, with the right credentials. He is fearless and with no hint of corruption, having made his millions, all declared and tax-paid, and without any political largesse from anyone, which is more than can be said of any other member of the Assemblies or of the Senate. He is an able administrator and should be given some important assignments such as ridding us of the Blasphemy law. Instead of destabilising the Punjab government, his energies would best be served in cleansing of the PPP members, and the party itself. Most of the members are involved in shady dealings, and this would be very much part of Governor Salman's expertise, being a qualified chartered accountant.

His biggest asset is his ability to facedown the mullah, sending a signal to the other militants that not only the Blasphemy law, but all such aberrations in the Pakistan penal code will be rectified, and removed from the books. Better still they shall get no support from the government and shall be hunted down. Instead of being propped up to destabilise the Punjab government, working with Mian Shahbaz Sharif could do wonders for the progress of the Pakistan Peoples Party and of the province. It would also be a message to the militants in the Punjab there shall be no more tolerance to any misuse of the Blasphemy law.

It will also send a message to all the other religions that we Pakistanis are tolerant, and the bigotry that was the signature of the Ziaist regime is being put to rest finally. Governor Salman Taseer has sent the right signal with just one statement and hopefully if he succeeds, then he will have done the biggest service to the Pakistani people, for there are very few people strong enough to remove the ill will that General Ziaul Haq left behind. Surely after the cruel hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto these remnants of Ziaul Haq should be removed. Is it too late already? The massive goodwill that shall greet this removal cannot be gauged in simple terms. But suffice it to say, if one Mandir, or one Church or one Christian life can be saved thus, the repeal will have been worth it.