Murder in Pakistan

Just when it seems things could not get worse for Pakistan, they do. It is not enough that the country has an economy in crisis or that terrorism remains undefeated. Now, close on the heels of the decision by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to quit the governing coalition, raising the possibility that it will fall, the governor of the country’s richest and most populous province, Punjab, has been assassinated.This killing of Salman Taseer, a leading figure in the main coalition partner, the Pakistan People’s Party, and a close confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, is, however, more serious than the political crisis. Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani’s position is relatively safe for the moment — indeed, even safer as a result of the killing. Even before it happened, the MQM indicated that it would not join a vote of no-confidence in Gilani. The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N then voiced similar sentiments based, it has to be suspected, on the knowledge that without the MQM’s support, it would lose such a vote. Now, however, none of the main parties are going to want an election in such an emotionally charged atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s detractors will use this slaying to try and blacken its name. They will claim that bigotry and extremism have infiltrated every level of society.It will be used too by those who want to pressure the country into pursuing their political and military agendas. They will say it proves it is a chaotic and dangerous state and that if it is not to fall apart completely, it has to take tougher measures against terrorists and extremists — as if it were not already fighting with all its might against them! But that has not stopped the leaders of Germany, France and the UK demanding it do more.There will be those too, who use this killing to flaunt their fear and ignorance of Islam, claiming it as proof, after the church massacres in Baghdad and Alexandria, of growing Muslim extremism and bigotry worldwide.That is demonstrably untrue. There is bigotry in Pakistan but then it exists in every society. Clearly the murder was an act of religious fanaticism.

But it was individuals who were responsible, not a mass movement.Taseer was murdered by one or perhaps more bigots who believed that he wanted to repeal the country’s blasphemy law. But he was a Muslim, not his murderer or those who, sickeningly, celebrate this evil deed. He worked for the good of his country trying to promote tolerance and understanding and peace between its different communities. He stood up against extremism and violence. It cost him his life and that makes him a martyr and his heartless, grinning murderer an ignorant instrument of evil.But while Pakistan has lost a bold campaigner for truth and justice, there is comfort for it in the knowledge that Taseer was not alone. There is a host of other activists whose faith is generous and embracing and who refuse to be intimidated by the twisted advocates of hatred.Pakistan is deeply shocked by this murder. This could be a defining moment for its leaders to stand up and rally the country against the deviant forces that would bring darkness to it and Islam. As for those Islamophobes who would see in Taseer’s murder proof of fanaticism, they should look instead to the Islam he stood for — a faith that pursues justice, truth and respect, the real Islam – Arabnews