Qadri’s Hanging and Pakistan’s Future?
Pakistan is a complex state. When Qadri was hanged on 29 Feb, as a Pakistan watcher, I was pleased and felt that the liberals were winning and Pakistan was moving towards becoming a progressive society. The aftermath of the event has saddened me as it appears that the society is not progressing. In this blog I have analysed Qadri’s hanging and future of Pakistan.
Qadri’s Hanging and Aftermath
Salman Taseer, a liberal governor of Punjab had come out in support of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, and in the process had criticised the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. He was accused of blasphemy as well. Qadri, a constable, on duty to guard Salman Taseer, murdered him in cold blood in 2011. Taseer was a hero for the liberals and minorities.
Disturbing scenes emerged after this assassination. Thousands rallied outside the court in support of Qadri. Hundreds of lawyers, including the former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Muhammad Sharif, offered to fight his case for free. On the other hand, the officially appointed ‘maulvi’ of the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore refused to offer Salman Taseer’s funeral prayer. A couple of months after Taseer’s assassination, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian minister for Minorities Affair and another critic of the blasphemy law, was shot down outside his home in Islamabad.
It was at this time that the myth of the silent, tolerant majority was busted. Before this, it was felt that religious extremism was confined to the fringes of the society, whereas the majority of the society was tolerant. But the way the public came out to support Qadri the miniscule liberal population realised that it was fighting a lost cause. Qadri’s case lingered on for several years, until finally this year the Supreme Court turned down his petition and his sentence was upheld and he was hanged.
Another pro liberal development occurred recently. Pakistan received its second Oscar award through Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary “A Girl in the River”, prompting the prime minister to strengthen legislation against dishonour killings. The Women Protection Bill was passed soon after, providing solace to the victims of domestic abuse. This law was also condemned by the Islamists.
Spontaneous protests erupted all over the country after Qadri’s execution. 2 lakh people attended his funeral in Islamabad. He had become a martyr, a ‘shaheed’ and a ‘ghazi’, holy warrior. A small shrine has been constructed around his grave. This is set to become one of the most prominent shrines in Rawalpindi.
Parallel from the Past
In 1929, Ilm-ud-din had murdered Rajpal, a Hindu, accused of publishing a blasphemous book. Muhammad Ali Jinnah had defended him in the court. Other prominent Muslim leaders too rallied behind him. He was hanged and became a ‘Ghazi’ and ‘Shaheed’. His shrine was constructed in Lahore and is attended by hundreds of devotees even today. Various Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats have over the years acknowledged and praised his contributions to Islam. In a state where Ilm-ud-din has been projected as a hero, it is only natural that Mumtaz Qadri would also become a Ghazi and Shaheed. Things have apparently not changed.
Pakistan: States within State
Pakistan’s complexities began from the time of her creation. The prominence assigned to religious leaders in politics and their influence over the society has hampered the growth of progressive outlook. Utilization of religious fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan and terrorists against India increased the power of religious fundamentalists. We have the following major sub-states within Pakistan:
- Civilian elected leadership which gets pressurised by the fundamentalists, as well as the Army and sometimes acts as pro liberal.
- Army, which is largely pro fundamentalists and part modern.
- Fundamentalist religious leaders.
- Religious minorities.
- Progressive society of liberals, like Taseer.
Post Qadri hanging, it sadly appears that the religious fundamentalists and regressive elements of the society are winning. The DNA of Pakistan has not changed much since 1929! The world’s hope lies in the strengthening of liberals who supported the hanging of Qadri and favour the Women Protection Act.