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Say No To Intimidation


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Published in the Express Tribune Op-Ed pages in two parts, Part 1 & Part 2

Perseverance is perhaps the only rational way to deal with adversity. But it is toilsome, and so requires patience. Owing to the magnitude of our problems, our reactions are often impulsive. It is a natural instinct, understandable since everything we do seems pale in the face of rampant violence.

In the wake of Salmaan Taseer’s death, most of us found ourselves plunged into a dilemma. I confess that attending a vigil a day after Salmaan Taseer was assassinated did little for my optimism. One candle against 27 bullets. There we were a few hundred, marching around the press club with candles in our hands, demanding Taseer’s killer be punished. We chanted and we held banners, we called him a martyr. A few days later, newspapers carried pictures and headlines of around 40,000 men condoning the murder and demanding the release of the assassin.

It was impossible not to make the comparison. Analysis, scrutiny and comparisons followed. The one force that kept us bound together was our stance against intimidation. Our frontiers shrunk further, as those in favour of the assassin and those against the killing were now being minimised to labels. Almost infectious, even obituaries couldn’t refrain from using them. Not only is this counterproductive, it is also maligning the cause. Taseer was killed because he took a stance for a Christian woman. His stance was based on humanitarian grounds, those who incited his murder used the ‘liberal elite’ label to malign his cause, divert attention from the humanitarian adversity and later to justify his murder. It is then ironic that we continue to use these labels and marginalise the cause.

It doesn’t end here — like a reoccurring nightmare, just eight weeks after Taseer’s assassination, Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was also gunned down. His assassins left pamphlets and claimed his death was imminent due to his support for reformation of the blasphemy law. Bhatti’s death has brought us back to square one. Even though there are no celebrations or huge rallies in favour of the assassin, the writings on the wall are clear. It is worth recalling that rallies before and after Taseer’s death called for murder and listed three names. Two of the three have been shot dead.

It is important not to lose our sense of rationality even at the time of grief and loss. Following Bhatti’s assassination, MNA Asiya Nasir delivered a heart-rending address in the National Assembly. There was this one question she asked that needs to be answered: Why did the government fail to clarify that no committee was working on thereformation of the blasphemy law? It is ironic beyond belief that we find ourselves in the middle of such debates right after one of us is shot in cold blood.

In the cases of both, the murder of Salmaan Taseer and that of Shahbaz Bhatti, the murder itself was committed in broad daylight, it was televised and documented. We know them and their supporters. We know them by their names. Our silence now will only mean more blood.

Citizens for Democracy (CFD), a group comprising civil society members organised shortly after Taseer’s assassination, has stepped up to call for action. Their demands are simple: Upholding of rule of law; arrest and punishment to murderers of both Taseer and Bhatti; and no to intimidation. A letter campaign recently arranged by CFD members managed to get 15,000 people to sign a petition to the chief justice, the prime minister and heads of all political parties to take action against the brutal murders. This is perhaps the largest number of people that have showed their support with regards to this issue.

Criticism is inevitable. In this case, it is the question of a petition being the solution to our arduous problems. It’s true, a petition is not the only solution. It is, however, an initiation point for a much bigger action plan. These 15,000 people defied all labels and cliches. It was not about the liberals or the conservatives, but about Pakistanis uniting against violence and fear. It is symbolic of the fact that, contrary to popular perception, we are not a nation of vigilantes. The atmosphere of intimidation can only be countered by courage.

The next thing now is to strategise a way forward. We understand that it is zeal that gives the extremists an upper hand, and to counter that we must identify our driving force. Our support system is then our political parties. Much of the criticism after the assassinations has been aimed at the PPP, when, in fact, all political parties need to step up to the crisis. The assassinations are not just displays of vigilantism and lack of security but most of all they show is a failure of governance.

In fact, the PML-N needs more of our attention for it’s failure to counter hate campaigns against minorities in Punjab.

This brings me to the point about perseverance. In the wake of Taseer and Bhatti’s assassinations, we ought to realise that it is one bumpy ride from here on. We cannot allow ourselves to be reduced to labels or engulfed by pessimism. The call for upholding the rule of law and the stance against intimidation is a basic humanitarian right. It is a cause that is meant for and must appeal to all Pakistanis alike.

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18 thoughts on “Say No To Intimidation”

  1. Rizwan, you are misguided. I have heard too much nonsense against our women from too many bigoted Pakistani men to care for more of your tirade. Sana, you should not allow space for bigotry on your blog. I support you and others like you, my sisters, wholeheartedly.

  2. Asha………..You and Sana are the women from same society who is Called ”Beghairat Brigade”…….after noticing your thoughts now I am sure why in Islam there is a saying that Women would be in large number then men in Hell………………Shame on you

  3. @rizwan …………what Sana has asked and said here is her point of view towards the current political situation in Pakistan. DONT MIX RELIGION WITH POLITICS. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE DOES NOT AGREE WITH UR POINT DOES NOT MAKE THEM AN ENEMY. HAVING DIFFERENT VIEWS IS GOOD AND IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT SHE IS WRONG EITHER. next time u decide to read something keep n open mind, u might just learn something.

    1. Miss Asha Khan…… I am not a scholar to discuss religion and start commenting on sensitive issues, it was your beloved Sana Saleem who never loses a chance to relate everything with religion……now you tell me that did I write a poem saying I am a blasphemer????was it me??I think its really hard to convince you since you are a women and Sana is aswell you are sexist….You guys have this fobia of Men, women rights etc…..women like Sana saleem would ignore any mistakes of any girl for just being a Gender Bias……Sana saleem pretends to be a writer but when I criticized her she blocked me??I mean if a lady can not tolerate criticizem she shud stop writing……I have asked this question from Sana aswelll but she just closed her eyes since she did not have an answer, can you plz tell me how can you or Sana defend Salman Taseer??ignoring his arrogance of when a women was convicted by the court, she was in Jail, and a governor comes out of nowhere and asks for a press conference and decided that she is innocent??was he a judge??or a scholar???we all condemn his killers act but I also strongly condemn salman taseers act of being a king….then Miss sana writes for him as if he was battling an enemy country…..secondly you tell me plz that being a women, can you justify Veena’s slutty acts??just to get cheap publicity???was she a women to defend????but Sana saleem does it…..coz in her view, this type of behavior is normal, I wonder wandering naked could also be normal in sana’s society…..you have answered alot of questions already in your comment, the reason I am also crying is that why Sana is trying to be an Alima, leave that to the concerned people, plz do not write about Islam, you know nothing….. Sana purely works on a western Agenda of trying to degrade the religion and Islam and starting a debate…..People like her are on a payroll of the western decision makers…..Miss asha you also showed that why all women are bias, you kept saying that leave that to Jury, Religion etc….but you never asked all this to Sana saleem?? by wearing a head scarf 1 can not say that she is an Alima and has the license to speak about sensitive issues…….now the other thing which is loves to write about is Women rights……if God has not created Men and Women equally then how can you guyz ask for it?????in Islam women are not treated equally yes, they have more rights then a man……problem with Pakistani women are the ask for equall rights but they still want the special privileges…this is hypocrite…..the bottom line is men and women are not equal, naturally…..so stop this discussion first……..and If Sana Saleem is reading this then plz have the courage to face the criticize, dont just block people if they dont agree with your Liberal Extremist thoughts……..I remember you have written an article on Ghairat…..I think people like you are called ”Beghairat Brigade”…..who want to live in a western society, created in Pakistan……….if you are that vocal, did you hear that in US a priest has burnt Qur’aan???have you heard???why cant I see a column on him??why am I not seeing an article on wests extremism????since you are on their payroll I know its hard for you………

    2. @rizwan ……….. first u did not answer any of the questions that i put forward…..1)everyone else is a baghairat then show us the real picture of ISLAM. 2)u r so much against women issues, forget abt that for a moment and tell me what good have u done trying to initiate good change?????? y didnt u answer the points abt stage shows women an the men who go n see them plus the kiddnaps of young kids and using of them as sex slaves in pakistan????????????

      now coming back to what you wrote, lets agree for a moment that u strongly feel that Sana should not have written that poem n abt salmaan taseer n assiya bibi. but lets not forget the fact that this whole conversation has erupted because of this issue. the issue being ” are the minorities in pakistan being targeted with blasphemy law????”. lets also forget abt asiya bibi. u think that salmaan taseer was not a scholar or ulema or a judge n he should not have interferred…. hello rizwan wake up …… this has not been the first time that this law has been used unlawfully against minorities. a couple of years ago a christian priest was murdered also infront of his house by ppl who thought he was a blasphemer even though the court had pronounced him innocent. NOW TELL ME SINCE U SAY THAT OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM IS PERFECT. DID HE DESERVE TO DIE EVEN THOUGH HE WAS PRONOUNCED INNOCENT????? there r many other stories, n i m not going into the back ground for it. like i said me n u r not judges. salmaan taseer might have felt that this is a case of injustice. dont u think that he had a right to raise his voice on that. u r telling me that our Pakistan’s judicial system is so straight that there is no corruption in it and justice always prevails??????????

      as for what sana writes its her wish. i m not defending her because she is a women n i am aswell. if this blog had been written by a man i would still say it, but u would not say half the things that u said earlier.seems like u have closed urself in a wall n think that u r safe there. i.e. ur idiology. women r not treated equally an for ur information women r not equal to men, u r right about that….. we r far much better than men….our men in pakistan expect our women to cook n clean n feed n have children, thats all what u think is the job of a woman. today women r doing all this an working. its the men of this era who have become lazy….before atleast if they got married they knew they had to get an education to work n feed their family, now they dont have too because the women they marry r educated and working n they dont have to do anything. the modern women has picked up the whole work load of a man n is still surviving…….this is just the liberal view. actually in pakistan women r treated like dirt n expected to stay that way… show me one area where women n children r not badly beaten up??????? yes there r issues about women in pakistan because we dont have rights period…… they r only down in paper not in practise. the day we get the rights in practical, life is going to be much better in pakistan.
      u have put all the weight of a being a pakistani on Veena. hey i m not justifying what she did but lets not forget she was not the sole representative of pakistan in that show. Begam also went there y didnt ppl say things abt him/her. hey i have nothing against drag queens but is that the type of person u would like pakistan to be represented by???? i infact liked Begam’s charcter, it brought a bit of light on everyones, on that show, but thats not the point y dont u say anything abt Begam?????? is that the image of pakistan u would like the world to see. i m only trying to repeat the logic that u r trying to convince me with??? Lets forget abt this. right now our biggest representatives infront of the whole world is the pakistni cricket team, but it too has suffered harsh criticisms when a few yers ago the whole team went out drinking n partying n could not play the next day match n evidently lost.
      any person represents themselves n their families first n then their countries……… i dont know sana personally n i dont know what type of views she has, coming to the point u r so adamant that sana has a western agenda, i dont see her discussing things happening in other countries i see her discussing something that is happening in our country. as for the priest who burnt the Holy Quran i do feel that he should not have done it, but alot of muslim ppl have burnt down the Holy Bible aswell, y rnt u passionate about that aswell?????????? All religions should be respected because each religion teaches us to follow a rightful path not the path leading to hell.
      and what do u mean i am on their payroll??????????? just because i am brave enough to say out the things that i feel i am a bagairat n on western payroll??????
      U MY FRIEND R ON THE PAYROLL OF FANATICS AND TERRORISTS, BECAUSE ALL I AM SEEING U DO IS IGNORING THE ISSUES INFRONT OF U N FINDING NEW ONES TO DEFEND URSELF WITH. this is the same logic with what u have written. NO BASE TO ANYTHING! Y DONT U DROP THE FANATIC AND EXTREMIST AGENDA N OPEN UR EYES.

  4. @rizwan………….. so u mean to say that u alone r walking in the right way of islam and understand it and everyone else is a “Baghairat” ??????? tell us then the true picture of islam. LETS HEAR THIS FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH.
    firstly speaking if Veena had been a man n ashmit a girl…. all men in pakistan would have said that gr8 job…. indian tv par indian larki ke saath !!!!!!!!!!. perfect best way to insult them. if u r so much against this happening outside pakistan y not try looking inside pakistan n start by stopping such happenings in pak.. where girls n young boys r kidnapped n used as sex slaves.. even so u should try stopping all these stupid stage shows with dance numbers. most of the women r parading around y not stop that…..its very easy to point fingers at everyone else…
    secondly dont be the judge or the jury..THATS GOD’S JOB LET LEAVE IT TO HIM. every story has two sides if u want to justly claim blasphemer on Asiya Bibi she should get a chance to speak her side of the story. dont claim things when u were not there at that time or are not in any way connected to that case…
    East, west, north or south… everyone has a right to live n let live. u seem, i m not judging only assuming from what u have wrote is that if someone does not agree with u, u might pick up a gun and shoot at that person. Remember only GOD has true understanding of things, me n u r meagre small beings infront of Him.
    everyone has a right to feel for issues that speak to them, if u feel so greatly about hunger, health facilities.. tell me what have u achieved in that. every change comes at its own pace…. u do your portion of change if that’s what u really want n let others deal with their portion.
    thirdly no society has same views through out. there is always the left n right side extremists. ppl want to live normally with the freedom to live n experience life with in the walls of their culture. u can see the glass is half empty n i can see that its half full.if so n so is liberal please extravagantly explain ur views which side do u belong to??????

  5. I am just here to congratulate you for winning the award on net I heard about Pakistan 1st ever blog awards so your blog url is there so keep up this good work.

  6. Aoa,

    I am a new comer to your blog (found out through twitter), and as I was just reading some of your past articles, I had some mixed feelings. You do raise voice over some serious issues, which is commendable, but sometimes you go into some sensitive areas as well with only one sided approach.

    And I’m talking about the blasphemy law, and everything that happened around it. Some questions that you and all those experts should answer, to those who you have portrait here as the bas guys (the intimidators :) ).

    1) Are you against the blasphemy law altogether? And please don’t give me that stupid, irrational, emotional, and subjective lecture which you have written in your blog with the heading “I am a blasphemer”. What is blasphemy and what is not, should ONLY be judged based on what was termed as blasphemy 1400 years ago by the Prophet PBUH. Either support your arguments of what is and is not blasphemy by giving strong references from Quran and Sunnah, or just keep it shut. : )

    2) Or you think there is some specific thing in the blasphemy law that is an issue?

    3) Why the heck did the late governor stood up for a woman (please note I have purposely not used Christian here and I would kindly request others to do the same, as ANY Pakistani woman or man can be taken into custody because of this) who was judged by the court as a blasphemer after the hearing had been for three months? She herself had admitted it that she did blasphemy. Then according to the law there was only one simple conclusion to that—she should have been punished.

    4) And please correct yourself and everybody else should as well, there is no my or your version of Islam, there is ONLY ONE version that was preached 1400 years ago by the greatest man PBUH. So we either follow that or not, in other words we are either good muslims or bad ones. No liberal, moderate, extremist groupings are allowed.

    And May Allah guide us all.

    Please write without any biasness, or subjectivity, and good luck for gawahi.com.

    Saad

  7. The general perception is that we ( Pakistanis ) are a very emotional nation and always ready for Jehad. But it is not so. We are very sensible and sometimes even crook when it comes to persecution of minorities. The 99.9% majority proudly starts Jehad against 0.1% minority. The victim of intimidation are those sections in society which are in minority or their supporters or sympathizers. When it comes to USA or any other super power, our Jehad confines to what happened in State v Raymond Davis case.

  8. Good work Sana. It has been a common rethoric in the blacphemy law debate that the violence and hate is among the extremist left and extremist right. Such labels as you mention only diverts attention. Masses are easily led by spontaneous protests and headlines, petitions on the other hand do not have the same publicity. They are not that controversial and are done in silence.

    I firmly believe that pakistans majority does not support murder (masked under blasphemy or honour and so on…) But still smaller political groupings manage to press the entire governmental apparatus to the walls with theyr slogans and speeches.

    Question is, when will petitions be more eyecatchers for newschannels? When will groups like CFD get enough broadcast attention to neutralise the hatemongers and bigots?

    Dawn news is surely one reasonable voice. But it has no Urdu wing. It dont reach the masses. Naveen Naqvi from Dawn, a respected journalist is also using here voice and position for justice. But again, mostly in English. The voices simply do not create enough pressure on the government.

    In the end. May i ask who the third one was named as target by the supporters of Taseers killer?

  9. Another article to degrade Islam, Muslims, and pakistanis………just to please the west, Sana Saleem never looses a chance to speak against Islam…..she is one of those liberal extremist who are more dangerous then Fundamental Extremist(Taliban)……She is one of those who want to westernize the country and are working hard on foreign agenda……she is one of those who have studied, lived abroad….studied in Christian American schools, and then they become the wrtiter, I am she she doesnt know nothing about Islam, Blasphemy…..by wearing a Head Scarf one can not disguise……

    1. Umm correction please. I have lived in Pakistan all my life, grown up and studied here. There are no Christian American schools in Pakistan, secondly I don’t know about you but I know my Islam and don’t want preaching. Thanks!

    2. I can show you 100 Christian or American schools here. and secondly You know nothing about islam…….or if you know anything about islam I know ppl like you hav this modern version of Islam created to adjust there lifestyle, where women wear Headscarf but Wear Tight Jeans underneath, oh yess this is the kind of islam you know i think……where liberal extremist like you look for for opportunities to adjust religion according to there lifestyle….Sorry madam I know this version of Islam which you follow and its a Biddat nothing else….now nobody can applaud the Killer of Salman taseer but without doing any research you started showing your sympathies for Salman taseer but I ask you a question, how on earth can you justify Salman taseer’s act of appearing out of nowhere and getting that Lady(Blasphemer) out of jail and arranging a Press Conference and trying to be a Mufti who knows in and outs of Islam????? What persuaded him doing this on a fragile issue???I know he was from the same Liberal Society that you represent, where all you have studied is ”Islam is a religion of Peace” thats it, and all your lifestyle moves around this sentence…….then you tried to defend the Miss VEENA Malik……just being a bias since she is a lady, you can not defend a amateur Whore….if that was a man from pakistan and degrading our country there would be the same response from the pakistanis, but just to please the west ppl like you have a modern New version of Islam…and they try to explain there version of Islam ignoring wests mistakes………..this is a humble request please do not write on Islam or Fikah you know nothing, you are not an alima not a scholer……I know there would be people who wud incourage you alot……..You belong to a soceity which is known as ”Beghairat Briagade”……you dont know the grass root problems all you write about is women rights, Honour Killings etc……There are bigger issues in this country….if elite class like you goes out of the Bedrooms to small slums and villages….ppl need food, better health facilities and you are defending women rights…..

  10. ..The write up is a moving treatise of how people have started yearning for justice, rule of law and severest of punishment for the guilty who committed these gruesome murders.But the broader question for me is:Will Pakistan ever be able to come out of “type of Islamisation started by Zia-ul-Haq”?.To me from this distance the process started by Zia has taken deep roots and saner voices like yours and others of your ilk have long and arduous road to travel.My good wishes to you and and people thinking like you.

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