IN a more stable and mature polity, the explicit incitement to murder by the ANP Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour would have been met with his immediate suspension from politics and the opening of a police investigation to determine what crime he should be charged with. But in the warped and fearful Pakistan of today, the official reaction was characteristically and depressingly spineless. The prime minister has only distanced himself from his minister’s remarks and offered to discuss it with the ANP boss, Asfandyar Wali — while leaving Mr Bilour in his job. And the ANP has only said that Mr Bilour was speaking in his personal capacity and the party does not endorse his demand. Gone is the idea of collective responsibility, of the cabinet and of a political party.

Strip away the theatrics, and the reality is even more frightening. Mr Bilour said what he did precisely because he knew he could get away with it. No one will dare prosecute a man calling for the murder of an individual who has committed blasphemy against Islam — though it is unlikely that the railways minister even really knows whose murder he has specifically called for. And Mr Bilour said what he did because he understands better than most that the ANP is headed into an election campaign after a disastrous term in charge of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and with fierce competition expected from the political right in the province in the shape of the religious parties and PTI. So what better way to establish the ANP’s religious credentials in an unfavourable electoral climate?

Therein lies the great tragedy of Pakistan. Moderate politicians have long argued that they are helpless in the face of a rising tide of conservatism and extremism in society at large. But the ugly truth is that all politicians — even the so-called moderates — are more than willing to pander to extremism if it means a few extra votes or political survival. To refer to the Taliban and Al Qaeda as ‘brothers’, as Mr Bilour did in calling on anyone to kill the producer of the hate film, Innocence of Muslims, is to desecrate the memory of the thousands who have died, many of them belonging to Mr Bilour’s ANP, at the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. If there is speech that should be criminalised in Pakistan, it is speech enabling and strengthening the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Of course, it won’t happen because political survival is more important to a politician than national survival.

Updated Sep 23, 2012 10:07pm

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Comments (19) (Closed)


Iftikhar Husain
Sep 24, 2012 10:48am
The editorial has put the point rightly. The minister has got the ministry of railways which is completely mismanaged and in bad shape if he was in other country he would have been removed but Pakistan has a unique politics so he will go on as usual.
Santana
Sep 24, 2012 02:28pm
Just when you thought Pakistan couldn't sink any lower....
jay komerath
Sep 24, 2012 02:21pm
When will be the time pakistani clergy will come to their senses?whenw ill they come the 21st centurry instead of the 4t th?
Agha Ata
Sep 24, 2012 06:45pm
Railway minister is not authorized to say anything or make any decisions about foreign affairs. He crossed his jurisdiction. Second, where did he get one crore dollars to pay to kill a man? Thirdly, it is justifiable to suspect that it was initiated by he government. Fourthly, the government's response to the whole case is not only very mild, but to say that instead of taking action against him Prime Minister would talk to the chief of ANP about it makes it a joke that is not funny at all. It strengthens the suspicions against the PM..
Sultan Khan
Sep 24, 2012 12:28pm
Fully agree that the announcement of Bilour is a political gimmick to compensate for his total failure as Railway Minister. But the other side of the picture is that. we have become accustomed to such rhetoric. No notice was taken by the concerned authorities when No.2 of Punjab Sanaullah declared Baber Awan "wajibul qatal" and some Bugti announced a reward of 10 million rupees for the murder of General Musharraf.
Mabariza Dotani,11 years
Sep 24, 2012 07:40pm
Nearly 95% of the politicians are selfiish and just want to be elected so they can have the power to control over many things, they are all two faced people and they only care about themselves. They don't care a single bit of what is happening to Pakistan. All they want is money and power, and then they can just relax and watch all of what is happening to pakistan, without even helping a little bit to make pakistan a good place to live in. All the people who protest about the death of Sam Bacile should stand up and tell what they think about it. Even though it is wrong what Sam Bacile had done we must not say that people should start to say that they want to kill him, because we know Allah will give him a punishment.
shahidanwar
Sep 24, 2012 05:23am
He symbolises the typical dilemma of Pakistani liberal-secular politicians. Being a pathetic failure in governance they need more to demonstrate their religious zeal for Islam. Bhutto did the same, under his leadership state assumed the role of declaring people non-Muslim. Benazir followed his footsteps. A further review of history tells that almost everyone after Jinnah played the religious card for political survival/gains.
Gerry D'Cunha
Sep 24, 2012 09:55am
verma:he will also win the next election for his bold statement - clever guy - but no entry into USA
Abdullah
Sep 25, 2012 02:41am
Pathetic appeasement and double standards. For the sake of record, since this is what DAWN's researchers should have been doing, a French court had banned a clothing advert mocking Jesus Christ in 2005 (not to forget the recent ban on pictures of Kate Middleton) -- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4337031.stm DAWN needs to condemn unequivocally publication of any defamatory or slanderous material against Islam, the Holy Quran or the Holy Prophet (pbuh), instead of just criticizing the public outrage or miscreants' violence.
Mustayeen A. Khan
Sep 24, 2012 09:54am
Why are we so hyped up on Mr Biilour's remarks? No supporter of Mr Bilour, but I must underline that there has never such adverse reaction and comments when the West, the Ameerican government for example, place a bounty on the head of whom they presumed their enemies. Is not that incitement to kill?
Ahmed Khan
Sep 24, 2012 05:44pm
It is because of people with views like yours that Islam is getting the bad name of being a backward and inhumane religion with no tolerance.
Salahuddin
Sep 24, 2012 07:58am
Bailour swayed away by popular sentiments. Killing an idiot and insane person won't solve the Muslim's problems. It's astonishing to see an important leader of a secular party act as a bigot.
umer
Sep 24, 2012 08:00am
You forgot to mention the names of politicians who actively court the Taliban and those who helped create this group. Blaming Mr Bilour for an off-the-cough remark in the heat of the moment is unfair. As your editorial rightly points out, it is the followers of the ANP in particular and the Pashtoon people in general who are bearing the brunt of the problems created by extremist elements. The federal government conveniently distances itself from the Taliban by invoking the so-called 'lawless, rugged and inaccessible'' nature of FATA. But when the US drones fire missiles at the militant hideouts there, some which are the blue eyed boys of the state, then it cries foul and talks about its sovereignty and territorial integrity being violated.
s.s.verma
Sep 24, 2012 04:23am
lawyers will now shower Mr Bilour with rose petals.... ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Akhter Husain
Sep 24, 2012 05:59pm
What ever may have been the reasons of MrBilour,he had no need to to be irrational.After all he is a federal minister of Pakistan and not the REHBER of Iran,besides we are passing through very tough times..
T
Sep 24, 2012 12:37pm
Dawn - apologetic as always !
Akhter Husain
Sep 24, 2012 05:41pm
Would you like to stand up to powerful?
Zahid
Sep 25, 2012 02:54am
Mr.Bilour's statement truly indicates true spirit of a Muslim.It mustn't be taken as an incitement to murder rather it stands for people's genuine reaction to blasphemy.His bold statement is sufficient to make the world realize that some true Muslims are still present in pakistan besides American puppies.
M. Asghar
Sep 24, 2012 09:37am
These "condemnable remarks" are in the nature of the things that are happening in the country and around it, because of the complete lack of sanity in all the national domains due to the general lawlessness and lack of responsabilty sharpened by the unwelcome presence of the outside toxic geopolitical interests in the region.