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January 30, 2011

Taseer disowned

Karachi

January 30, 2011

Intolerance, hatred and extremism run deep in our society, and over the years their hold has grown firmer. But sometimes it is hard to believe just how bad the situation is. The refusal by senators to even offer fateha for Salmaan Taseer, after Sen Nilofar Bakhtiar attempted in vain to move a resolution condemning his assassination, is a reminder of just how bad things are. While there may be arguments for and against the controversial blasphemy laws, refusal to pray for a man who was brutally murdered amounts to approval of the crime. And these are people who are our lawmakers. It is shocking that even the parties which say they stand for liberal values did not make any gesture either to call for fateha or condemn what happened to the late governor of Punjab. Ms Bakhtiar failed to move the resolution precisely because Senate chairman Farooq H Naek, who is himself associated with the PPP, did not allow her. Then a senator from the MQM refused to lead fateha for Taseer when requested by the chair to do so.
The PPP has adopted a strange position: on one hand it presents Mr Taseer as a victim who died pursuing the party’s cause, and on the other it refuses to own him. It is possible fear played a part in the members’ reluctance to offer fateha, but it is frightening that so few are now willing to raise a voice for what is right. If such an approach can be adopted in the Senate, what can be expected at other forums? As a nation, we need to find a sense of morality and basic decency. If even this is lost, the narrow views of the least enlightened will hold sway, with no one willing to challenge them. The murder of Salmaan Taseer has exposed a great deal about our society. It continues to do so, and the image emerging from beneath the thin veneer is a horribly ugly one.

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