Wahab Tariq Butt
They are blaming me for murder of the young pregnant girl outside Lahore High Court. They say I am an accomplice. How dare I stand there and watch those men murder that poor girl? Why didn’t I stop them? They say I should be punished. I don’t have an iota of shame and am a disgrace to men, I am being told.
I would normally ignore such people and carry on with my life. But the poor girl who was murdered by her own father and brother asks me the same questions when she haunts my dreams. I can feel for that poor soul. Killed by her own kith and kin for an action not classified as a crime under the laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the girl’s soul would not be able to rest in peace- although I pray every day that she does.
I am not one of those who believe that someone should be brutally killed for making a life choice. I am a religious man who has read in Quran that murder of one human being is the murder of whole humanity. I don’t belong to any group that kills humans in the name of religion.
Instead, I feel for that poor girl. My heart cries every time I think about the time I stood there and watched those ‘gherat mand’ men kill an unarmed, weak girl. They say I am shameless, insensitive and heartless. I think I am just scared- scared of my life, of the life of those I love.
But I wasn’t always like this.Three years back, I was the Governor of Pakistan’s most populated province, Salman Taseer. I belonged to the ruling party and had earned enough to live my life comfortably. At that time also, such injustice happened and the victim was a woman. She was accused of blasphemy after a fight over petty issues with neighbours and was being wrongly awarded a death sentence. I stood for her. I came forward and tried to save her. At that time I neither hesitated nor asked myself: why should I? She was neither a friend nor a relative, but was a Pakistani and a human and that was enough. I thought that by saving her, I will please my Allah. I showed bravery- but I was killed by my own body guard. Instead of being appreciated for my stand against injustice, I was frowned upon. My murderer was showered with roses and given valentine presents while most Ulema refused to offer my janaza prayer. That was the first time I felt scared- scared not of my killer but of my millions of fellow countrymen.
A year later, I was a teenage girl Malala Yousafzai. Taliban had taken control of my city (Swat) and wanted me to live on their terms. They wouldn’t let the girls in my city study or work. They said I shouldn’t leave my house unless I am getting married or going for Hajj. I was brave and stood against them. They shot me in the head but I still stood firm. I survived, was even acknowledged by the world, but my own countrymen called me a traitor. They said I was a foreign agent, some refused to accept that I was even shot. Taliban didn’t scare me but this behaviour by country men did.
I still didn’t lose hope. Whenever I saw my country men in trouble, I leaped forward to help them. Few days back, I was a lawyer named Rashid Rehman. I spent my whole life working for rights of my countrymen. I saw that injustice was happening and a person was being wrongly accused of blasphemy. Those who launched a case against him had decided before hand that he deserved death- trial seemed a mere formality as anyone who agreed to represent the accused in court would be threatened of severe consequences. I knew the risks. I still came forward and stood for that helpless guy. I stood for him because I believed in humanity. I had seen murder of Salman Taseer and was scared of my life, and of the life of those whom I love; but I still stood against injustice. I was openly threatened in court and later brutally murdered. Apart from a few tweets, no one seemed to appreciate my sacrifice. I departed the world with honour. The extremists who killed me were never able to scare me and stop me from doing what was right. But the failure of authorities to punish my murderers did scare me. I had taken a stand, but the extremists were able to crush me and fulfil their evil plans. They now roam free.
So, when I was an ordinary man standing outside Lahore High Court, I was scared. Scared not of the bricks the attackers had in their hands, but of my own country men. I thought I would be either labelled a traitor or just completely forgotten. I was afraid that my sacrifice will not be appreciated. I was afraid that I will lose my life but the attackers will still fulfill their desires and go back to their homes proud. I was afraid that my attackers will remain unpunished and my children will spend their lives pleading for justice. Yes, I stood back and watched them kill her.
Should I be blamed for the murder of the girl outside Lahore high court? Am I an accomplice?