On the crossroad of disaster

By K.N. Pandita,

Assassination of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer* by the trusted guard reminds one of the assassinations of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard gunman. Political figures of eminence have always lived a life of constant threat from their adversaries and assailants.

But there is a marked difference between the two cases of assassination cited above. Indira Gandhi was assassinated because she ordered military action in the holy shrine at Amritsar against armed insurgents holed up in the shrine and armed to the hilt as if in war preparedness. As head of the government, Indira Gandhi had to ensure and enforce national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country as these were threatened by a anti-national elements supported and abetted by an inimical county in the neighbourhood.

On the other hand, late Salman Taseer  was not called upon to defend the integrity and sovereignty of the state nor had he ordered any military or police action against any person or organization. He had gone to the market on a non-official vsit when he was gunned down by his guardsman.

The assailant Malik Qadri threw down his gun and pronounced the reason why he had taken the life of one he was supposed to protect.

Taseer was gunned down for his ideology of rationalism and humanism. The group of TTP who claimed responsibility for this heinous crime asserted that Taseer was eliminated because he was against the blasphemy law and supported its withdrawal. The group to which the assailant belonged celebrated the act of murder and issued warning that others holding ideas of tolerance and coexistence would meet with the same fate. This blanket warning, obviously, was directed more towards the dispensers of justice in Pakistan than ordinary civilians.

Rabid fundamentalists lionized the act or murder as the victory of the faith they adhered to so much so that they would not allow the burial of the assassinated Governor with due rites, leave aside giving him a befitting state funeral.

The killing and related developments speak of the level of brain washing of jihadis in Pakistan and the level of hatred spread against other religions. Were Governor Taseer’s rationalism and humanism as dangerous to the Islam of these radicals as necessitated his elimination? Was his humanism of showing sympathy to an oppressed Christian woman such an un-Islamic act that he had to pay for it with his life? Is there no precedence of humanistic treatment to an oppressed person in the history of Islam? Isn’t Islam called the religion of peace and compassion? Is only the Allah of the Muslims rahaman and rahim (compassionate and forgiving) and not the Muslim ummmah? Are there no examples in the biography of the holy prophet of him forgiving his adversaries? Don’t the pious Muslims believe in the words of the holy prophet that killing of an innocent man is tantamount to the killing of humanism?

It appears that now in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan radicals are a law unto themselves and the state is a silent and helpless spectator of mayhem let lose by them. It has failed to contain extremism, which is emboldened to challenge the authority of the state.

Broad-day assassination of the Governor of Punjab for his sympathy towards an oppressed person and his views that the blasphemy law was not compatible with modern views of justice are pointers to a critical situation steering into Pakistan’s eye. What will be the fate of a state in modern world where tolerance of other religions and religious factions is practically and not virtually refused, attacked and decimated? The source of  religious interference in Pakistan lies in the anti-Hindu philosophy of the founding fathers of the concept of an Islamic state for the Muslims of undivided India. Having extirpated its Hindu population soon after the new theocratic state came into existence, Pakistan must now find the religious other to revitalize its zeal for religious hatred.

Indoctrination into Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism has gone deep and wide into Pakistani civil society. It has one very serious dimension. Surprisingly, the armed forces, too, are now brought within the ambit of rabid indoctrination and these have also towing the line of the rabid extremists.

Pak watchers in the western world are looking at this serious development in terms of security threat to the region and the world at large. If the fundamentalists could make a dent into the bodyguard columns of a governor, what guarantee is there that they have not penetrated the nearly 2000 persons who are equipped with considerable nuclear know-how from among 70000 persons working in Pakistan’s nuclear industry.

American and European stakeholders are now wondering if Pakistan government’s claims that her nuclear arsenal is well protected against infiltration and subversion can stand the test of time after the assassination of the Governor. There seem to be a fair chance that religious extremists, behaving with impunity as they are, may find access to Pakistan’s nuclear devices something not really forbidding. Pakistani Army’s claim that the jihadis form the second or maybe the first line of defence has to be taken seriously. The quality of weapons confiscated from the killed or surrendered militants in Kashmir clearly show that this line of defence is provided with most sophisticated weaponry and latest communication gadgets by their sponsors from across the border.  Pakistani army, from top to bottom, remains sensitized to India as a potent enemy. It would want an excuse to let the dirty weapon finished the “unfinished job of partition”.

That Pakistan’s civil administration has been fully penetrated by the TTP, which the Army considers a decisive thrust delivering force, there remains little doubt that in case the dirty weapon falls in their hands, they will use it to maximum effect.

The US and the European Union both frugal in providing Pakistan with financial, military and other assistance over the years, will have to reconsider whether democracy has any chance in Pakistan.  The level of military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the rugged terrains of Waziristans may not really break the backbone of the warring tribesmen because they are receiving perennial reinforcement in manpower from the vast numbers of indoctrinated youth in the Islamic seminaries in Pakistan.  There might be the need for a drastic change in the regional strategies if not in the war tactics now underway. New alignments might be forged with wider space for action and maneuvering depending on the building of consensus among the stakeholders. Washington needs regular re-appraisal of its strength and strategy in a region in which state interests of China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are fast deepening. At least one thing is clear. Pakistan is split vertically between supporters or sympathizers of militant religious extremism on the one hand and paralyzed and dysfunctional rational segment of her civil society on the other. It is a revival of the long-drawn battle between the orthodoxy and liberalism in Islam. In this scenario of crumbling structure of civil society, Pakistan Army is enjoying the sadistic pleasure of increasing its power and role at great speed. Where will it lead the country to is anybody’s guess?

* find him on wikipedia.

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