Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
When I first heard about Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination, there seemed to be nothing sensible to be said about it. Not yet another prediction about Pakistan’s growing instability, nor even an outpouring of anger of the kind that followed the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer in the English-language media. The assassination of the Minorities Minister did not appear to portend anything beyond the actual tragedy of his death. And nor could anyone say it came as a surprise. A loss of words, then. A painful punctuation mark.
Cafe Pyala has now articulated far better than I could what went through my mind when I first heard about the assassination.
“There was a time when some of us would have leapt at the chance to throw words into this maelstrom, to comment on a senseless tragedy like the one today. As journalists, as commentators, as columnists, it would have been like going to the Promised Land. High profile murder? Check. Law and order issue? Check. Spectre of extremism? Check. Possibility of point scoring against toothless government? Check. Energizing, empowering, emboldening feeling of being part of a struggle that is bigger than one’s self? Check, Check, Check and Check!
“That time is long past.”
It is that loss of words that is perhaps the most troubling. Everyone already knows that publicly challenging the blasphemy laws in Pakistan can be a death sentence. Everyone already knows the government appeased the religious right by pledging not to amend the laws after Taseer’s death (that appeasement, incidentally, is not unique to the current civilian government — the Musharraf government was also quite clear the laws could not be touched.) Everyone already knows that Pakistan’s minorities are particularly vulnerable (according to The Express Tribune, they comprise almost 10 million people, equal to everyone in Tunisia, or one-and-half times all of Libya. )