Time to take a hardline stance/ Rabia Mughal

Rabia Mughal is an associate editor at drbiscuspid.com, an online resource for health care professionals based in San Francisco, and a graduate of NYU School of Journalism.

Published in the Express Tribune, January 19th,  2011.

Rabia Mughal

My IM window sprang up early on January 4 “Salmaan Taseer murdered”. With an all too familiar acidic feeling in my stomach I googled Pakistan and there it was. The police vans, the blood splattered site of murder, headlines screaming that Pakistan will soon come apart at the seams, and a tidal wave of Facebook status updates.

The seemingly indestructible Salmaan Taseer is dead. Shot down with 27 bullets because he took a public stand against a law that is considered untouchable by the conservative majority of the country. The real punch to the gut, however, is the wave of reaction from so many moderates and liberals.

There has always been a tendency to jump onto a morally ambiguous bandwagon, where the diesel jeans-clad, party-going crowd feels compelled to loudly declare its support for whichever conservative values it adheres to, after someone blows up within uncomfortable proximity to its lives.

However, this time the people’s fear and scramble for self-preservation has given rise to the vicious “he got what he deserved” argument while ranting against Salmaan Taseer’s openly liberal lifestyle.

And so it has come to this. We have become a society where fewer and fewer can find it within themselves to strongly condemn the cold-blooded murder of a man, who died fighting for a political cause, because they feel the need to obfuscate that  sacrifice with his liberal lifestyle.

But hundreds can safely come out in support of his killer and shower him with rose petals because he has silenced the “bay haya” who dared question their worldview.

And yet we want to proceed with caution, we tie ourselves into knots by bringing up the genesis of religious extremism, economic disparity, drone attacks and a million different excuses for this madness. Yes, we are plagued by these issues and they are intrinsically linked to the rapidly escalating violence in our country, but at times like these there should be no confusion. No ifs and buts.

When a religious extremist brings mayhem and violence into our society, we need to deal with him as a criminal. Vocal opposition to legislation which is being abused by a lynch mob is a right in a democratic state. How long will we keep tiptoeing around the sensibilities of people who are now willing to kill over a difference of opinion?

It is because of this lack of outrage that a killer, who declared his intent, gained safe passage to carry out his mission, but the victim’s family had trouble finding someone to lead his namaz-e janaza because the imams feared for their life.

When will it be a good time to speak out? When they have guns pointed at our uncovered heads? Or when they issue death threats to students in co-ed institutes? Or when they threaten to bomb any cultural activity at variance with their worldview?

A friend recently told me that if you throw a frog in boiling water it will jump out to preserve itself but if you let it sit in cold water and slowly raise the temperature, it will not be alerted to the danger and will boil to death.

We, the civil society of Pakistan, must snap out of our own slow-boil stupor and save democracy, moderation and tolerance now, today, by relentlessly demanding justice in the aftermath of this assassination.