By Ahsan Kureshi
A friend, who shares my ‘liberal’ perspective on almost all things, inquired why I was surprised on what had happened. ‘Shouldn’t we be used to all this?’ His question got me thinking. Are we actually so drowned in the wetsand of fanaticism that the call of an auction of the ‘Holy weapon of Qadri’ was not even a head-turner? Are we bent upon staying fearful and oblivious to all that we deem as absurd? Is a debate on the said topic too much to ask for? Too volatile of a question with a ‘playing-with-a-knife’ consequence? Indeed and sadly yes; atleast, that’s what it seems.
What saddens me today the most is the biases of the pioneers of the ‘freedom-of-speech’ manifesto, the media. The morning newspaper (5th Jan) that greeted me today, the most widely read English daily, proved to be a rude shocker. Not a single headline, news item, editorial or article mentioned Salman Taseer’s name. Except for a small box of gratitude via a hefty payment by a cable company the deceased was an ex-CEO of, not a single paragraph was dedicated to the man. The online blogs and articles however were a relief but in terms of impact, their voices are still a whisper.
On turning on the television however, I was surprised to see all the major channels shy away from the topic of Mr Taseer. Disappointed, I tweeted a renowned anchor, questioning him of the reality of media’s freedom and warned him on how him following suit in his program later at night, would leave many of us discouraged. Almost childishly, I hoped the tweet would invite a rattling of the conscious and the taboo topic would be discussed. Later that night I watched the same ‘champion of freedom’ speak selfishly on the ‘safe’ topics of Babar Awan and Hussain Haqqani while sitting in Lahore, home to Mr. Taseer’s heartbroken family.
The fear that comes with this topic scares me today like it never did before. I was never afraid to speak rather loudly on how wrong Qadri was on murdering one rational voice amid the clamor, I was hopeful. This changed today.
The existence of such mindsets that tend to translate the horrendous murder as an act of piousness irks me. The advantage of number the said population has over the opposite side leaves little to be expected. What’s worse is that Quaid’s secularity and his vision for the secular nation that he proposed would probably never see the light of the day. In a country where the shackles of conservativeness and dogmas bind us to the extreme, intellectual debate shall forever remain a taboo.
Qadri shall soon walk the streets a free man and the voices that shall continue to protest would forcefully become the Tariq Ali’s of this generation. Nothing much will change.
Lastly, I would like to apologize to the Taseer family on behalf of everyone of us. Nothing said or done can bring back the loss of the progressive mind that this nation desperately needed. The complete show of disregard by all the key players in all the walks of life disappoints me more than it would disappoint most. Mr Taseer had high expectations from this country, he would be grieved to see it as shameless as it is today. For this and so much more, I apologize.
Ahsan Kureshi is an economics student from Lahore.