A Pakistani student explores the genesis of a violent Pakistani mindset
Many decades ago, Rafiq Sabir entered a Gujarati businessman’s palatial home in Bombay. Almost 60 minutes after this intrusion, he was led out, handcuffed, by policemen. The charge against him was that he had attacked ‘a leader of a religious party for political reasons’. This leader survived the attack and went on to create a country where 68 years later, ‘another Rafiq Sabir’ attacked ‘a leader of a political party for religious reasons’. The snake was taught another language, the venom was given another colour but their effectiveness was undiminished.
Today an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis hold in respect a repulsive constable of the Punjab police. My own house is divided. My parents have asked me time and again to not write anything disparaging about this ‘courageous man’. I would have heeded them if there wasn’t a large crowd a hundred yards from my house still protesting against the death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri.
A much smaller crowd gathered weeks ago in America too and they were also protesting against a death sentence. There is nothing uncivil in such protests but if the protesters are trying to glorify a confessed murderer, a cold-blooded fanatic, things do look threatening. These are the people who cheered the death of an innocent reformist and the destruction of a small Christian family. It is never enough for them. Should they not be appeased by god’s vengeance which will strike the ‘unlearned’? Should they not calm their hearts by remembering god’s words: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay…”?
Mumtaz Qadri also has something to learn. Martyrs don’t get glory for free; they have to sell their lives for it. And under no conditions do they run about town filing appeals against their death sentences. Perhaps Mr Qadri has become too accustomed to the attention he is getting in this world and he has forgotten the next.
Before emptying dozens of bullets into Salmaan Taseer’s chest, Qadri was fully cognisant of the fact that he was committing murder and that he would be executed for it. Why then this dilly-dallying, these second thoughts?
Then there are those liberals who don’t want Mumtaz to be executed. To them, the death penalty is as criminal as murder, only that the former is sanctioned by the state; it is a punishment which leaves no room for reform and gives no value to remorse.
But a criminal who shows no remorse can’t be reformed. It is almost always the court verdict which awakens a convict from his delirium and if he is unable to show remorse then, one can rest assured that he never will. Expecting remorse from a deluded Mumtaz Qadri is like expecting remorse from Hitler. Their crimes weren’t the result of personal animosity towards their victims – they were caused by deep personal convictions. We can’t even expect that Qadri will reform himself, for what would reformation mean to him? To the religious crowd, he sits at the pinnacle of chivalry, selflessness and courage. Where do you go from the pinnacle? For me, the only non-repulsive thing that Mumtaz Qadri can become is a dead man.
If people like Mumtaz Qadri keep rising up in our society, we must realise that it is time for some introspection. Bigoted mobs, men suffering from Jerusalem syndrome and faux liberals can’t be waited out. They have to be dealt with severely and their identities be thrown into the dark parts of history. Before reading the sentence to Jinnah’s assailant, Justice Blagden made remarks which have something for everybody (To make it more relevant, I have replaced the word ‘political’ with the word ‘religious’):
“No country can be happy and prosperous which condones murder for ‘religious’ purposes or for any other purpose. The only result of condoning a ‘religious’ murder is to substitute the rule of hooligans for the rule of reason… You and misguided people like you have to be taught fact by punishment and the example of punishment…”
Jinnah might have won against Rafiq Sabir but he lost against history. Intentionally or unintentionally, he gave birth to the very society he was fighting against. It is a society where even a brave judge has to vindicate his position by prefacing his verdict with an apologetic statement: “A proven blasphemer is wajib-ul-qatl (liable to be killed). He cannot be forgiven. Only the holy prophet himself can forgive him.”
How far have we come? Perhaps hate does beget hate. We are children of hate.
This article was posted on The Express Tribune blog on October 13, 2011, http://blogs.tribune.com.pk
Archived from Communalism Combat, November 2011. Year 18, No.161 – Neighbours