Do we remember what Taseer was fighting for?

Published: January 4, 2012
Email

Salmaan Taseer had courage, and Pakistan needs many more men and women willing to take a stand like he did for what is morally right. PHOTO: REUTERS

International newspapers were ruthlessly generous to Pakistan this past year in granting the country front page features time and time again. Coverage included the Raymond Davis incident, the Memogate scandal, a ‘bold’ Veena Malik, devastating floods, and everyone’s favourite, Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.

However, exactly one year ago, Pakistan stole headlines for a reason that has largely been buried; Salmaan Taseer’s assassination over the criticism of the blasphemy law. On January 4, 2011, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer’s security guards, emptied over 20 bullets into the body of the man he was meant to protect.

Taseer’s death was both mourned and celebrated; his assassin both deplored and decorated.

A year has gone by since the tragic incident. Taseer’s son has been abducted, and his whereabouts remain yet unknown; his murderer has been sentenced to death amidst violent opposition; and the Christian woman that Taseer died defending is wasting away in jail.

True, the public has expressed outrage at the abduction, and many an opinion leader has nodded his head at the death sentence. The blasphemy law, however, remains unscathed. It was the centre of debate last January and it brought many questions to the fore.

What is its place in Pakistan?

How has it been abused?

Should such laws even exist?

Should Pakistan be a secular state?

These were just some of the questions raised. It brought to light the plight of minorities in Pakistan for a brief moment, and educated Pakistanis the world over shook their heads at the regrettable situation Pakistan was in.

Despite this nothing has changed. Where is that discourse now? What is the point of a people passing judgements if they do not demand justice of their government? What purpose do debates, talk shows, and articles serve if those who are watching, listening, and reading all concur but refuse to take action? Our memory is truly too short. Pakistanis worldwide were lamenting Taseer’s death just last year, yet that tragic event, too, has passed from our attention just as quickly as Veena Malik’s topless photoshoot has. Pakistan, as a nation, cannot afford such a short attention span. Events such as Taseer’s death should be omnipresent in our minds in times like these, not to remind us of the pitiful state of our nation, but to remind us of the important political issues Pakistan faces.

Concerns such as the Blasphemy Laws and the Hudood Ordinances – more broadly, minority rights and women’s rights – are ones that we should be pressing our political candidates on. Rather than harping on about Pakistan’s age old problems with India or America, we should turn our sights inward and demand resolutions for the flaws that exist within our country. Election time is undoubtedly the singular most important period for every democracy – the power that the public holds during this period is unquestionable. Tyrants can be overturned and heroes can be championed. It is a time when we can ask anything of our politicians. It is a time for us to demand the answers we seek and the solutions Pakistan needs. That is exactly what the public should be doing right now.

Demand that whomever your favoured candidate is, he should address the black laws of Pakistan. For in order for Pakistan to prosper, we must first remedy the maladies within the nation before attacking the pests outside. The reality is that it is far easier to criticize other nations than it is to criticize our own. Few candidates possess the courage to do so, but this kind of courage is absolutely vital for a stable Pakistan. Salmaan Taseer had this courage, and Pakistan needs many more men and women willing to take a stand like he did for what is morally right. Let not Salmaan Taseer’s sacrifice be for nothing. He died fighting for the integrity of this nation. Rather than just remembering him, remember his final cause and fight for it too.

SalmaanTaseer: “I was under huge pressure sure to cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing” December 31

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Hafsa.Ahmad

Hafsa Ahmad

A writer and Associate Editor at Altmuslimah.com. She is a graduate of Middlebury College, where she studied International Politics and Economics. Hafsa is currently writing, working and residing in Lahore, Pakistan. She tweets at @HafsaAhmad.

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