A cry in the wilderness

January 10, 2011

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I DON'T know where to begin, what to say. There are so many questions: the governor's murderer could have been a fundamentalist, obscurantist, extremist, terrorist, whatever.

But why did the other guards who were present at the time that he was emptying his magazine into his victim's body merely stand around watching? Isn't shooting the shooter the immediate action any trained guard would take?

Why, indeed, was the man detailed on VVIP duty when his extremist views were known to all and sundry within the police department? There is news too that he had told his companions that he was going to assassinate their charge and then give himself up, so could they please not shoot him. Is it possible that the motivators and the instigators of the murderer had got through to the others on the detail too? And warned them that if they harmed the murderer they would themselves be done to death? ghazi

These are very serious questions that the government of the Punjab and the federal government must address most urgently before, God forbid, another person falls victim to another would-be .

And while this is probably a cry in the wilderness, will all of the state's functionaries, including those that inhabit the darker recesses of it, get together on one platform and fight the growing menace, nay, monster of intolerance, hand in Pakistani hand? Far more than this, will all of our famed agencies together bend muscle and sinew to find the instigators and the motivators of this dastardly deed and then prosecute them efficiently to the full extent of the law?

Even more than this, will the security establishment stop considering the jihadis their assets, and instead make us — the lay people of the country — their assets? Will they cut down on expenditure and help the government divert more funds for education and the social sector? It is commendable that the army has established a military college in Sui. Well, why not 10 more military colleges all across the country? As I have said many times, an educated, happy populace will be a far stronger, better asset than an obscurantist mob of murderers.

For this monster does not only threaten the 'bloody civilians', it threatens all Pakistanis who might have a view different to the jihadis who, let me insist one more time (and mark my words), are readying themselves for a takeover of the Pakistani state, no less. For have our own soldiers — serving, retired, even their innocent children — been spared the wrath of the murdering terrorists? So depraved is their conduct in the quest for dominance that they do not even spare mosques and those who are in prayer as happened at Parade Lane, Westridge.

But back to Salman Taseer. He did not blaspheme by saying that the law on blasphemy was a faulty law which needed amending to make it more fair, under which innocent people would not be charged/harassed/killed as we have seen in umpteen cases. The government, which is now going blue in the face saying it has no intention of bringing changes to the law, should think again. The minorities too are citizens of this country and need the protection of the state.

Salman and I went back a long way, and even though I opposed vehemently his destabilising the Punjab government in which his own party was a coalition partner and then dismissing it — an act that was doomed to failure — I never quite lost a certain affection for him. He was brash; he was in-your-face; he was loud and brazen. But he was outside what he was inside.

When he was on the run during Ziaul Haq's cruel dictatorship he hid in my home on Nisar Road for some days, always insisting that it was good the police and the intelligence agencies were as inefficient as they were so that people could hide from them for considerable periods of time. They did get to us one day but I had seen the three police vans parked near our house just as I drove out on an errand.

There were no mobile telephones then so I stopped at a neighbour's and warned Salman of the impending raid. There was no acknowledgement from him, just silence. I drove back home to find the telephone off the hook where Salman had dropped it, the guestroom window open and no Salman. As he told me later, he dropped the telephone, jumped out the window and over the back wall, ran to the nearest road, flagged down a passing motorcyclist and vanished into thin air! That was the Salman Taseer I will remember. RIP.

Tailpiece: According to this newspaper of record “Zeenat Shaikh, a renowned folk singer of yesteryear, can be seen loitering on Thatta streets with a faint hope of seeking alms. It's heartrending to see this [senior artist], who once ruled the hearts of Sindhi and Seraiki music lovers with her melodious voice, walking barefoot and carrying a begging bowl”.

The report goes on to say that Zeenat's parents were famous folk singers of their time — Fatima Shaikh and Khan Saheb Saleh Mohammad Shaikh — and that she used to accompany her mother from the age of 10 in singing for Radio Pakistan, Hyderabad.

Is it too much to ask the good Murtaza Solangi, DG Radio Pakistan, to extend the poor lady some monetary help? And to call the matter to the attention of the information minister? People like this 70-year-old woman are national treasures and should be treated as treasures.

kshafi1@yahoo.co.uk