On ape-administered territories and a hero’s kidnapped son

Published: August 30, 2011

Shahbaz Taseer-Son-of Salman-Taseer. PHOTO: REUTERS

A famous Pakistani musician had a Facebook status last week that read, “Planet of the Apes: Based on true events in Pakistan.”

This is debatable. The Planet of the Apes franchise is based on themes of racism and intolerance based on dogmatic beliefs and bigotry. While the 1968 original and its four sequels were much more explicit in delivering this argument, with scenes, props and bits of dialogue quite clearly meant to illustrate the point, the recent reboot/prequel portrayed the problems in a much more sublime manner, and focused more on ambition, abuse and revolution, all linking to the same original themes of course.

Here is a tale of a man obsessed with healing his father, and willingly breaking an important medical research rule in the progress; Here is the tale of a father who just wants to do what, for him at least, is impossible; Here is the tale of a son, who does not understand why he must wear chains just because he looks different.

In the movie, the ‘smart’ apes are identifiable by a green glow in their eyes. Caesar, however, as the first ape born to a ‘smart’ ape parent, has a very different gleam in his eye. He is smarter than the other apes, and he knows it. He has lived amongst the enemy and learnt that with the exception of a few, man is evil and capable of nothing but destruction. This breeds the desire to break free and be independent, and as later scenes show, the dumb dirty apes actually outfox the ‘civilised’ humans.

Much like reality, it seems that the oppressed class is actually not inferior-it is in fact far superior. Intellectually and physically, the ruled, through strength in numbers alone, are much more likely to have within them the means to reverse the situation. Unfortunately, with age and experience comes cynicism and despair. The old, having tried and failed to fix things in their own heyday, see no point in watching their children suffer the same failures.

Unfortunately, while the young have ambition and hope, their lack of experience means that they will behave instinctively; looting, pillaging and looking for short-term gains rather than long-term fixes for the problems that led to the uprising. Most prominently, they will make the mistake of trusting the untrustworthy, based simply on ethno-religious bases. Caesar will be betrayed by his own kind. Just wait for the sequel.

So is the movie really a reflection of Pakistan, or is it a coincidence that one is the moving story of creatures that are biologically similar, yet hate each other based on lies and misconceptions created by the actions of a limited minority of the population, and the other is Planet of the Apes?

Deja vu

One of the first people to comment on the same status went missing on Friday morning. A man whose father was shot and martyred by a glorified policeman, who in spite of firing dozens of rounds at the only notable member of the ruling party to come to the defense of a poor victim of persecution, somehow managed to be arrested, rather than shot dead on the spot by the rest of the police detail.

While the policeman was garlanded with flowers and had prayer vigils in his honour, those brave enough to tell the truth behind the martyred hero’s words, or even willing to lead his funeral prayers, have been living in fear ever since. And now this.

The abducted man is not a politician. He is a businessman. He is the son of a man whose political achievements, whatever you may think of them, will always be secondary to his achievements as a businessman. The policeman’s actions left the unfortunate kidnapping victim and his siblings some enormously large shoes to fill, but they have easily shown that, even if they cannot replicate their father, they have inherited more than a bit of the country’s most famous accountant’s business acumen.

Why he was abducted is unexplained. When he will come back is unknown. The only certainty is that he will be showered with love when he comes back home.

There was a demonstration against his abduction in Lahore on Saturday, and I do hope it went well. However, more than that, I hope he comes back safe.

He did not deserve this, nor do the hundreds of others who have been kidnapped for ransom. One of my neighbours lived through the same ordeal. He was missing for months, and it was only after a king’s ransom was extorted from his family that he came home safe. The musician with the Ape status was himself kidnapped a few years back. Thankfully, he and the other victim also went home safe, yet again in return for a large payout.

There’s a pattern here, and it’s not that people with means are being kidnapped. After all, poor people have been picked up for ransoms that would seem a pittance to the rich.

The pattern is one of failure. The failure of this government, the previous one, and every government that has ruled this land, at least in my lifetime, to provide even the most basic human rights to the people who elected it, funded it and were continually betrayed by it.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/noman.ansari Noman Ansari

    Good blog, and I agree. I also like the Planet of the Apes review linked up top. Well written, and obviously by some handsome dude.

    Anyway, my prediction is that unfortunately we are going to see the following tired responses in the comments section here, and more so on facebook:

    Why is he getting so much attention? Is it because he is rich?
    He lead such a decadent lifestyle, so obviously he deserves anything bad that happens to him.
    The ET should stop publishing such propaganda (this will never get old).
    It is obviously the government that kidnapped him, because they want the ransom money.
    Everything was staged.
    Prove to me that he was a good Muslim, so that I can feel some sympathy. Because only good Muslims deserve sympathy.

  • Ms Marium

    Hero’s son ? Who is the hero by they way ? :SRecommend

  • Ms Marium
  • Moiz

    @MsMarium Salman Taseer. that should be clear enough.Recommend

  • Ms Marium

    No,it wasn’t – I thought he was talking abt some muslim hero’s son – and I don’t consider Salmaan Taseer a hero – Pardon Me !!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/379/vaqas-asghar/ Vaqas Asghar

    Noman, respect.
    I normally avoid commenting on my work this early, but as an advance answer to the probable questions you raised,
    I don’t care why anyone else is giving him attention. I know him personally. I respected his father, and i still respect his father’s belief that Pakistan can return to the SECULAR state that was envisioned by a heavy smoking, booze-swigging, non-praying, western-dressing, Parsee-marrying, non-Muslim child raising father of the country that was one MA Jinnah. (the Dominion of Pakistan, as per the official name of the state upon independence, a name that stood until the first constitution, which under pressure from previously anti-Pakistan Islamists, declared the state an Islamic republic, an oxymoron since the caliph in an Islamic state is not democratically elected, and which came under a ruler who, to counter actions to control his absolute power, dissolved the assembly, which only then Justice and future Chief Justice of Pakistan Bobby Cornelius had the guts to oppose)
    Second, find me one bit of dirt on Taseer’s accumulation of wealth. He was one of the country’s biggest individual taxpayers and he epitomised the term self-made billionaire. If God helps those who help themselves, this man truly had God’s blessings.
    Third, as part of the ET family, I’m proud of the organisation for their stance on such matters and I thank A|llah for the opportunity to be part of it.
    the next two are hilarious but unfortunately, not beneath the people in power.
    Finally, what is a good Muslim? Is it the heroin dealer arrested in Peshawar who prays 5 times a day?
    Is it a suicide bomber (or his ‘spiritual adviser’) who believes hes going to heaven to get some action with 72 virgins for killing a bunch of other Muslims?
    Is it the crazy people who call Jews and Christians names for believing (somewhat differently) in the same God of Abraham?
    Is it OBL, who killed many Muslims during his self proclaimed Jihad?
    Is it Muammar Gaddafi, or the rulers of Yemen and Bahrain, who our clerics and military are supporting in their brutal suppression of their Muslim subjects?
    Or is it someone like me, who believes a pure heart reflects pure faith?
    Only Allah knows who the true Muslims are. God has the right to forgive or punish any sin.
    Man has the right to shut up and wait to be judged on his or her own actions, not those of others.
    Oh and did I mention that the molvis (Jamaat e Islami under Maudoodi) were OPPOSED to the creation of Pakistan? Recommend

  • Honorliving

    @Ms Marium:
    Salman Taseer died as a hero. He was killed for saying what was right because he was not scared of defending the meeks… and demannding diginity for all. Shahbaz Taseer will return soon safe and will continue what his father started…. Diginity and Justice for All.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Vaqas Asghar:
    You my man have made my Eid day worthwhile. After reading your reply comment, I scrolled up to take another look at your face in the small picture. Your clear thinking, moderate progressive views, and most of all your optimism is inspiring and brilliant.Recommend

  • Adil

    I am sorry but yes indeed the kidnapping of shahbaz taseer is a criminal and condemnable act like so many other such things..but i also have 4 friends who are kidnapped by our own agencies from 2 months one of them is a chartered accountant,one is telecom engineer and two more..Their only sin is that they are attached to an islamic organization that works for unity of muslims,,they dont have any links to voilence,their organization has no links to voilence all over the world..and its proved not only in pakistan but all over the world..so my question is that why dont I see a sinlge blog,a single editorial,a single news item condemning it in ET??
    Only because they talk of islam???
    The different stance of the “ET famliy” towards two similar instances is nothing but hypocrisy..
    unfortunately we are all confused..some have become liberal extremists and some have become religious extremists..
    religious extremists have guns and secular extremists have media…And both of them are destroying pakistan..
    Moreover we have to follow Prophet Muhammad Saw and his life..we dont need to look at Jinnah for guidelines about life..He was a human like us and may have alot of defects..Recommend

  • Shayan

    It’s one thing to voice your opinion and get killed for it. This man had no opinion and was trying to appease the west. Recommend

  • Pingoo

    Well done Vaqas,a fine assessment and dont give a dam to the doubting Thomas.Any idea/view is looked at from both sides of the barricade(Tallyrand-Napoleons minister) and as they say Art is Long Time is Short-so dont waste it-Cheers
    Keep it up!Recommend

  • http://www,pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    Ms mariam i agree with u as well .Let the liberals know, I dont regard Salman Taseer or Even BB a hero. Curroption , Incompetent governance and they are our heroes seriously….Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/noman.ansari Noman Ansari

    @Vaqas Asghar:



    Match. Recommend

  • Ms Marium

    @Vaqas Asghar I want to recommend you a book to read ‘Stranger To History’ by Aatish Taseer – itz worth reading !Recommend

  • Wolf

    A hero is someone who fights for a well popular cause. Unforunately, right or wrong, Taseer’s stance never gained popularity among masses and thus doesn’t make him any hero. If he had won in his case, this would not have changed the fate of this society. It would have changed the fate of only one woman..

    As for Quaid-e-azam the “parsee marrying”, “western educated and dressed”, the same quaid lauded Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed or didn’t he ?

    But anyhow, the real moderate people should sit back and see liberal fanatics killing religious fanatics and religious fanatics killing liberal fanaticsRecommend

  • Riaz.

    @honorloving: ur hero lost elections from his home constituency, still had the audacity to step into the governor house & accept a public office. So much for democratic, secular, liberal, ethical & moral values of ur pseudo Hero. Recommend

  • MBN

    I find it hard to imagine Salman Taseer as a hero still.
    Yes what happened to him was wrong from every angle.
    Yes his stance (his one lone stance) on the rights of Asia bibi was highly commendable.
    But really what else can you attribute to him before his death that deserves giving him the unconditional title of a HERO?
    I cannot remember a single incident involving Salman Taseer before the Asia bibi thing came up that would allow me to even marginally accept him as a public servant let alone a hero. He had a vitriolic style of talking, and was hardly diplomatic with his words and actions and as someone already said, his reputation in the political realm was definiely not one of a hero.
    Even his words in the defence of Asia were in my opinion mishandled and could have been much more subtly been put forward to the masses.

    That doesn’t make what happened to him right. And that doesn’t excuse his son’s kidnapping.

    But he’s hardly a hero :/Recommend

  • Ali

    If the Fascists can make the killer of Taseer a hero, why cant the Secularists make Taseer a hero?Recommend

  • http://www,pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    so neither of them should be the hero. Recommend

  • MBN

    @Ali: Getting into isms again are we? Confining ourselves into boxes even more than we already are? Anyways, you have a point, not one i’d subscribe to though.Recommend

  • faaiza

    Wether Salman taseer was a hero or just a successful business man turned politicin by his mentor Zzzzzzzz ,is beside the point.Murder is a crime and doubly so when one is being paid to defend the victim.Firing at an unarmed man is an act of cowardice and contemptible.
    I agree with Adil about our society being a hotch potch of liberal extremists and religious extremists and zealots .they are both tearing up the fabric of our society.
    Kidnapping is again a crime wether done by ISI or anyone else ,but the real tragedy lies in the fact that this hue and cry should have been raised by us all at the first disappearence in our country.Did ST who had such clout and abused Nawaz sharif so ferociously ever turn his energies towards the other victims of kidnapping or disappearence.
    None of us is safe as our silence at an outrage , wether against the abduction of a muslim with sympathy for religious org or a mod muslim like Shahbaz Taseer,condones these acts and encourages the pepetrators of such crimes..All these kiddnappings are to be condemned . Recommend

  • rashid khan

    You all SK haters!
    You’ll hate him because he was not a hypocrite. As for him being a hero, he should be judged in relation to the current environment/situation.
    SK was a honest businessman, his paid his taxes and did not misuse his religion for personal gains. These qualities are rare in the state of Pakistan today.
    He had the guts to stand up and speak for the downtrodden in this religious society we live in. Not one of those who frequent the mosque five times dared concern themselves with this forsaken human condemmed to death in a case which would not amount to much in a court of law worth its name. Remember, she is condemned by a legal system that has in the same breath failed to detect any crimanal evidence from TV footage of Anjum Aqueel episode wherein he was forceably removed from the police custody.
    SK saw through the shame and he met the victim of injustice under the eyes of cynics, hypocrites and pipsqueks.
    His crime in this case was that he lacked sugar coated tongue – isn’t it usual for bold and honest individuals to be blunt and direct without mincing words. Its the charlatons and crooks who dupe people with honey coated words.
    He was a gaint among pygmies.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/379/vaqas-asghar/ Vaqas Asghar

    @MBN In a country where corrupt politicians and military men who try to overthrow the government and /or subvert the constitution for their own interests are made heroes, where tax frauds are referred to as notable businessmen, an honest tax-paying self made man is at the very least, a true role model and thus a hero.

    @ms marium, I’ve read it and its mostly nonsense from a man who hates his father.Recommend

  • S.A

    @Ms Marium:
    Maulana Marium who are you to consider if someone’s a Muslim hero or if he isn’t? Islamic scholar, much? :/Recommend

  • Sameer Qadir

    I think our biggest problem is that we are trying to be something we truly cannot be. To be secular we need the people to understand what secularism is about.To be an Islamic State we need to understand Islam. To be tolerant we need to be disciplined.To serve justice, we need to have faith. The simple truth to all of this is the lack of education. And since the masses are mostly ignorant uneducated lot, who is to blame for all the wrongdoing. ST happened to at the helm of affairs in the wrong place at the wrong time. His contribution may be measured positively twenty five years later, not now. His sons abduction is probably a means to ensuring better bargaining for in the shape of a life or money. Whatever it is, like the siucide bombings, abduction is a crime, and should not be tolerated in any society. However, it is the responsibility of the society to have a sort of balance in life. If I had all the money in the world, I would still sit in a Corrolla, a luxury car for most Pakistani’s by any standards. I would not want to further hurt the feelings of a society already reeling under the burden of a very expensive life, barely able to survive. I know I could buy anything, anytime and that feeling would be enough. Just being the top tax payer or a clean businessman is simply not enough anymore. And it is also time to stop making comparisons to others who are simply not doing enough. If ST did more good than bad in his life on earth, then he will be rewarded accordingly. Nobody in this world of ours can say who will go to heaven or to hell. So lets try to be better human beings and work to improve our own selves, without looking after the ell being of others.Recommend

  • Nasir

    @ Author:

    So who will decide that ST was right in his stance? You? or the court? The so called Liberals and secular are so confused and hypocrate that they cant take a stance. On one hand, they ask for ask for secular state where law should prevail (which in their opinion is not prevailing because of Islam) and justice be done in courts. On the other hand, they consider ST right in his action. By which authority ST went to jail, take out Asia Bibi (who confessed about her crime in court) and give a press conference to influence the trial which was in court. This act of his was unconstitutional itself. If he thought that Asia bibi innocent, he should have fight the case in court. If he was against this law, he should have gone to parliament and made amendment to it. This was the way. But you will never talk about his unconstitutional act. I am not a supporter of Quadri. He committed a crime and he should be punished according to the law as no body should be above the law (and this is what Islam says). But how did ST become a hero? for his unconstitutional act? He used his powers (of governorship) against the law. There is no difference between the religious extremists and liberal extremists. They use weapon to make people follow them and you use media to impose your will. Recommend

  • ItrustAyazAmir

    You should have blogged about qadri being a hero. You would have received a positive/hero’s response from “the land of pure” commentors like Marium et al!Recommend

  • guest

    dear vaqas i really believe you should focus more on important issues and leave our friendships and this superficial world you live in. do something for the poor of your country and focus on all of them. not just a few select people like u do.Recommend