All hope died with Shahbaz Bhatti

Published: March 4, 2011

Christians mourn the death of slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti after the funeral. PHOTO: AFP

As I write this, the body of Shahbaz Bhatti is being flown to Faisalabad for burial.

He has been dead for three days. As expected, Rehman Malik has claimed that the assassination was Bhatti’s own fault and not the interior ministry’s.

The government has called it an act of terrorism, condemned it and is observing three days of mourning.

The maulanas of two mainstream religious parties have issued lukewarm condemnations on TV but have refrained from actually meeting the minister’s family.

But none of the leaders have so far said a word about the blasphemy law that has been used as an excuse for this killing.

How can they?

They don’t want to die.

How can they come out and say ‘stop misusing the blasphemy law’ when saying it would count as blasphemy in the eyes of the extremists?

How can they raise a voice when the force silencing these voices comes in the shape of bullets?

How can they speak when it could ‘hurt’ the sentiments of the extremists that control our nation? Whether the extremists are a minority or not, the truth is that they are in control.

They define what we can say and what we can’t. They define the ‘sensitivities’ and we chart our course around them. They justify their acts by using the name of Islam, but their Islam is all over the place. It is in the bullets that target people who do not adhere to it; in the bombs that blow up shrines and mosques killing and maiming hundreds of those who paint a moderate picture of Islam.

So, we continue to live in silence.

The rule of these extremists is reinforced through our parliamentarians fear, incompetence and sheer selfishness. The silence will continue until our leaders find the courage to challenge brutality instead of hiding for fear of ruffling the wrong feathers.

But these power hungry vultures turn death into an opportunity to strengthen their vote banks and the democratic corridors faking concern and delivering nothing.

Members of the PTI and PML-N have been known to raise slogans alongside those of the JUI-F. These rallies in support of the blasphemy law are conducted although it is common knowledge that no one in the government is trying to amend it.

And yet, the grandstanding continues. Religious leaders provide tacit support to radicals by telling them that as long as it is a religion is ‘under threat’ killing is justified.

As one by one our leaders fall all we do is watch with fear, mostly quiet, terribly afraid and totally powerless. Some voices are raised but muted quickly – for what strength do words have when fighting bullets?

Every time I write, I am criticised for uttering words that won’t make a difference.

But I ask you, dear readers, what would you have me do?

Do you think it would make a difference if I went out to protest against the killers that distributed pamphlets claiming the act but yet elude any punishment?

Should I campaign for tolerance in a state whose constitution legitimises intolerance?

Should I try to make the extremists understand that an educated woman who they believe to be the scum of the earth, has a better understanding of Islam than them?

Or should I go their way and take up a gun and shoot down those who don’t believe what I believe?

What should I do?

What can I do?

The answer is: nothing.

I can’t do a thing that will make a difference in this God forsaken country.

Nothing I do will change anything, because the people in power prefer things to be this way.

They are leeches sucking our blood, which is more profitable to them than giving their blood to save us.

I cannot think of one person I can vote for who will change the situation.

Not the liberal PPP who claims to be progressive but has no qualms about abandoning its own governor when its popularity was at stake.

Not the PML-N who openly supports banned terrorist outfits just for a few votes.

And not the Jamiats who politicise religion so much that they can’t separate it from politics.

I am just a powerless pawn in this game. And so are you.

Even though I know that my weakness gives them strength, I don’t have a way out.

There was a time when I believed that my words would make a difference, that there was hope.

But today, I have nothing.

As Faiz aptly put it:

Is waqt to lagta hai

Kahin kuch bhi nahi hai,

Mehtaab, na Sorraj

Na andhera na savaira

(The time for nothingness has come upon us

There is no sun, no moon, no hope, no fear)


Sadaf Khan

A broadcast journalist based in Islamabad who was formerly associated with Geo News and Dunya News. She blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • TightDhoti

    You cant think of one person to change the situation, because this is beyond one persons ability to change the faith of 180 million people, with deep cleavages and opinions stretched across a wide extreme. A consensus is needed,a realisation that under no circumstances is murder justified. Remaining silent wont bering about that consensus, remaining silent is accepting the reality around us. Those who remain silent consent, they consent to whats going on. If everyone voiced their condemnation only then will popular opinion swing away from those who have ramped up the volume of rhetoric to drown out everyone else. Recommend

  • faraz

    Minorities should try to get better education so they can leave this country. Simply forget about tolerant and progressive Pakistan; logic and reason cant work against guns and bullets. Recommend

  • Saad

    The only way put of this is to educate our people. Hope the govt realises this before it’s too lateRecommend

  • Ducky

    The minorities should leave this country immediately if they want to live. There will be a time when the liberals and the moderates will be tracked and hunted down like Mr. Bhatti. I pity this nation, but I don’t care about its well being anymore. People are a mere shadow of what they used to be. Like so many others, Im saving my butt and getting out of here.Recommend

  • parvez

    You have managed to voice exactly how I think and feel. I have come to the conclusion that to correct this is beyond civil societies ability. Our politicians have proved themselves impotent and stand disgraced. It is the duty of the state agencies the judiciary, the army, the intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies to act. Recommend

  • Inayatullah

    Pakistan is the country where where a number of people are facing terrible death by facing hunger and diseases. Pakistan is an Islamic country. In Islam every human being is equal in the eyes of Allah and he only gets priority to Allah through his piety. The death of Shahbaz Bhatti is not more than a death of a common man. In the worldly status if one is high, he is not high than others in Islam. Here hundred Shahbaz Bhattis die in hunger and diseases daily, but there has been no voice from the US and the women like u, but only one Bhatti’s death alarmed all.

    The matter is that if inequality and injustice prevail in Pakistan, there may face death many Bhattis some facing hunger, ohters diseases and the bullets. All deaths are the result of corrupt practices and anti-poor policies of all the political parties in Pakistan. Whether it be MMA, PML-N, MQM,ANP or PPP, all are busy just increasing thier vote banks. None of them are pro-poor. All are playing dual game and one or the other way are attached to the ministeries.

    If the PML-N is not in Fedreal Cabinet, it is enjoying power in Punjab. When MMA is not in cabinet, it is enjoying perks and privileges in Balochistan and KP provinces. Same is the status of other given parties.

    There is need to mend the ways to halt deaths of all human beings.

  • Arshad

    In my opinion this issue is beyond politicians and independent media and judiciary, because they cannot spray bullets like extremists. Ousting of musharraf through PPP( both claimed to be liberals) lead to strengthen the right wing forces and their offshoots.Recommend

  • Usama Zafar

    Coudn’t agree more!!Recommend

  • anonymous

    All hope died with the Quaid!Recommend

  • Sadia Mahmood

    Sadaf, Faiz sahab,s poem is aptly quoted but it is incomplete. The second part is your answer. Recommend

  • Hamid

    If there is anything that can change this country is a bloody revolution, not a democratic revolution as our very own Altaf ‘bhai’ always says.

    One generation fought for this country and got it. Another completely plundered it. Only the new generation can do anything and certainly not through writing blogs. There will be a bloody revolution if change has to come.Recommend

  • Faizan

    Media always show one side of any aspect, same is here. The killing of a person is not allowed at any cost, it is true. But, always disclose the true picture, Miss Sadaf, if any Muslim say anything against the Chirst, then?????? The Christians would bear this or not? if they wont, then why Muslims?? You people only throw light on only one aspect. There must be some law that will protect the right of all communities whether it is Muslim or non-Muslim. Shahbaz Bhatti opposed the Blasphemy Law, why? You mean they have to be given freedom to raise voice against the Prophet??? When Muslims wont disgrace any of their Saints and the Christ, then why they? Think it over, madam. You people always create sensation, saying “All Hope Died With Shahbaz Bhatti” What kind of Hope??Recommend


    it is very dark side of the society in pakistan now a days, we are not able to listen the difference in point of views, this is due to fundamentalism in pakistan,which is unfortunately is very deep routs in our surrounding..,late shahbaz bhati was good leader good parliamentarien and a good friend for all com unties, i pray that may my allah bless him in the day of judgment.Recommend

  • Nazia Khan

    well done.Really logical comment.Recommend

  • rofl

    Good articleRecommend

  • Jeddy

    Bhatti has become a martyr so others will pick up where he left off. Where will the ‘minorities’ go?Recommend

  • Nida


    Pakistan was created as a homeland for the muslims who were themselves once a minority who were subjugated, lacked representation and the freedom to practice their religion, voice their opinions or stand on equal footing with the majority.

    Today muslims are the majority. But they are no different than their oppressors. We have forgotten our past and hence we see people like Shahbaz Bhatti and anyone who tries to become the voice of minority, suffer a violent death.Recommend

  • Nida Dar

    Well I wonder when would we ever stop living with this famous silence, we are afraid to speak up because of some fanatics who seem to have taken the reigns of everything in the country. You just never know when you hurt their so called sentiments and they let you become part of history. The author is absolutely right when she says that we have no issue in enduring to live with this silence. It’s quite amazing that how these extremists manipulate the whole issue and even a cool minded Muslim comes under their maneuver and reacts exactly what they want him to do,,, May Almighty give us all an insight to think about this controversy which is dividing the nation into several groups.Recommend

  • Let us not digress

    kya baat hai janab. i just put a blog post up along very similar lines.
    I dont know how many more wake up calls we need. Earthquake, BB assassination, Flood, Sialkot, Taseer, now Bhatti. I’m just hoping and praying to god that the innocents don’t become the collateral damage of the storm that is about to come. Its gonna be big, bad, and bloody.Recommend

  • Lalit

    Pakistan never ceases to amaze me..only when i start feeling that this is the bottom of the abyss,she amazingly manages to get to a lower one.Recommend

  • Uza Syed

    “All hope died with Shahbaz Bhatti” ————– has it, should it? No, on the contrary, it has rejuvenated our will and revived our hopes. We are more powerful than the forces of darkness that challenge us. It’s time we unite as one people and chase away and destroy all these demonic forces who inflict wounds after wounds on our national psyche. Yes, we are sad on Bhatti’s murder but we are not discouraged, infact we must be inspired by his great sacrifice. Saheeds die and give their lives to perpetuate life and liberty of those who survive them —— let’s live and unite and crush the evil for the sake of virtue.

    Pakistan for all Pakistanis ——- Pakistan Zinadabad!Recommend

  • MKB

    There is always hope. Recommend

  • Somdet

    Pls start your bloody revolution instead of typing here. why waste time in talkingRecommend

  • Anwar

    All hope died a long long time ago. We are rapidly moving towards a failed state.Recommend

  • Hermes

    Utter and complete non-sense is all I can say about your comments and its people like you why Pakistan is in the state it is right now. As a christian who lived the first sixteen years of his life in Pakistan I can tell you that on countless occasions my religion was ridiculed, I was pressured to convert to Islam or my patriotism was questioned by my fellow Pakistanis. I wasn’t the only christian they did that to but I still have to hear of a single case where a muslim was arrested or sentenced to death for ridiculing my religion so don’t give me that equality b s and you seriously want me to believe that when you and your friends sit down you don’t have a good laugh on the expense of religions that you don’t happen to follow? No human has the right to take another human’s life no matter what comes out of his/her’s mouth and there is no arguing around that. Shahbaz Bhatti wanted to abolish the blasphemy law because it is used to persecute the minority. There is no need for this law because no sane person would want to say anything against a religion in a country where its followers have no problem killing just at the smallest hint of blasphemy. I’m glad to be out of that God forsaken country where I would’ve had to breath the same air as you. I wonder how the people in the land of the pure would react if muslims in western countries are given the same punishment for committing the same crime against Christianity, I’m willing to bet that your views about blasphemy laws will definitely change then and don’t worry I know of plenty of muslims here who don’t have a problem ridiculing other religions because they know that free speech is protected in western societies. Even though the idea may be tempting I would rather live in a society where people are not killed judicially or extra judicially for expressing there thoughts. Recommend

  • Hassan

    I can tell you exactly what you can do Sadaf, for starters stop the doom and gloom act it helps no one. You write that Maulanas of two mainstream parties gave “lukewarm” condemnations, how do you classify condemnations and which one would be considered a red hot condemnation?

    If a law is being misused, the solution can not be to do away with a law the proper recourse should have been to understand what is required to make the neccessary procedural amendments so that it cannot be misused. The Blasphemy law is really not the burning issue for the masses of this country it might be for the people reading this blog but not for this country.

    I see our media both electronic and print, in English and Urdu and dont see any tendencies of following an extremist agenda the kind of popular shows we have on TV are a testament to the fact that the people of this country do not subscribe to all the views of the Mullah.

    The religious right also has an ability to strike a chord with the peoples emotions on the issue of religion to achieve their political objectives, and they achieve this time and time again because so called liberal parties allow this so that they can continue their reign of loot and plunder.

    If you want to see the change you talk about and seem passionate about use this space to educate people on the power of a vote, we allow the religious right to dictate terms when we choose to sleep in on election day, we allow the loot and plunder of our country because what happens to the poor prople in this country doesnt really affect us, we allow lawlessness to thrive when justice is only for the rich and powerful, we allow extremism to thrive because they fulfill the social and economic gaps which the state doesnt fill.

    I will not recommend who you should vote for, i would suggest you do a little more research on those parties who havent been in power once and see what they have to offer your vote should not be based on just one issue alone.

    “The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation’s development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution in spirit, the forces which had produced inequities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance, and fear.” Aung San Suu KyiRecommend

  • parvez

    You are one of the few people who say and correctly so that ” Pakistan was created as a homeland for the Muslims – – – ” and not in the name of Islam. There is a fine line between the two but a very clear and important line. Pakistan was envisioned as a secular state and not a theocracy by its founder the Quaid.
    Today the religious right and their sympathisers have hijacked this vision and distorted it to suit their purposeRecommend

  • Zunaira

    @Faizan: When the people of Taif showered stones and pellets at the Prophet pbuh, Gabriel descended from above and asked to destroy the very existence of the people of Taif. Do you know what the Prophet did Faizan? He prayed for the people of Taif. He did not order Gabriel to finish off these ignorant people. And he most certainly did not ask his followers to go on a killing spree. Our Prophet pbuh showed tolerance so that we the followers would learn to do the same. Nothing gives us the right to take lives just because other humans have opinions. Your single track mind is what hinders you from expanding your horizon and understand this beautiful religion. Kill in the name of the Prophet pbuh and you give reason to the world to attack us. Keep acting like this an you will prove to the world that we are indeed a terrorist nation with our terrorist religion.Recommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    not sure if it matters what quitters have to say.Recommend

  • gautam

    @Parvez & Nida,

    Please brush up on your history & try to remove your prejudices. Else, you shall remain trapped in the viciousness that is destroying you.

    Nida, you write: ” Pakistan was created as a homeland for the muslims who were themselves once a minority who were subjugated, lacked representation and the freedom to practice their religion, voice their opinions or stand on equal footing with the majority.”

    When was this true either in British India or in pre-colonial India?

    You must be totally MAD or shamefully ignorant!

    Until 1857, Muslims were the functional rulers over much of the Indo-Gangetic plain, from Punjab to Assam, and had been since 1132. All of their subjects, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, had to abide by Islamic codes and there is much you should read up on the treatment meted out to non-Muslims right from the year 1000.

    Here is an example:

    Edwardes, S. M., and Garrett, H. L. O. Mughal Rule in India. Delhi: S. Chand; p.116:

    “Aurangzeb issued an edict in 1669 to ‘destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels’, the Vaisnavas of Vrndavana saw a real threat to their lives, property, and deities….”

    Please consult the records of this and thousands of OFFICIAL FIRMANS, and CONTEMPORARY historical records available IN PAKISTAN, in FARSI, and make up your own mind which peoples where






    all your complaints.

    Unless you can bring yourself to face reality, you WILL face destruction. Why do you suppose Pakistan has been proceeding along the trajectory it has?


    Falsehoods & delusions contain the seeds of destruction.

    That is why the defense establishment wants forever to use religious fanaticism as a weapon for its own deluded visions of power and madness. The end will be total destruction on par with that of Japan & Germany at the end of WW II.Recommend

  • Sadaf’s Mom

    I did not permit you to blog just so that you can spread hopelessness! Now stop writing, go to kitchen and make everyone sandwiches! :PRecommend

  • Hermes

    @Sadaf’s Mom:
    Very funny, you can crawl back into the dark and creepy whole that you crawled out of now. One more thing the sixth grade is harder than the fifth, just giving you a heads up. Recommend

  • Arshad

    The present provincial government will never be able to tackle this issue, extremists will keep on engaging city after city. Lahore , Multan , Gujranwala and then Faisalabad. This is ther reality. Federal and provincial government are just engage in defining the ethnic lines in the taliban organizationRecommend