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At the edge of an abyss

india Updated: Jan 05, 2011 21:58 IST
Hindustan Times
Mohammed Ali Jinnah

In recent times, whenever the two Pakistans have collided, it's the secular, liberal one, which was the dream of its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah - rather than the homegrown brutish jihadi fundamentalist one - that has come off the worse for the wear.

The murder of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, by his bodyguard is indication that Pakistan today seems to be taken over by elements who have no roadmap for the country other than one which is on the slippery slope to ruin. The question often asked about Pakistan is that of who really rules the country.

If, and this is popular perception, we were to assume that it is the army that really calls the shots, then the least that can be expected is that there would be a modicum of law and order.

But if an elected and popular representative of the people like Taseer is not safe from those who oppose his views, the army is either complicit in this or unable to control those who are determined to destroy whatever it left of Pakistan's civil society.

Taseer's singular crime seems to have been to criticise both the Taliban and to call for the revocation of the draconian blasphemy law. His crimes, according to his detractors, seem to have been his fondness for a Western lifestyle and his lack of adherence to the kind of Islam prescribed by the Talibanist elements in Pakistan.

Taseer was probably among the few of the generation of Benazir Bhutto who were held up as beacons of modernisation for Pakistan. But what we see today is a country which does not have either the leaders to pull it out of the morass it is in, or even an army which can enforce law and order. The bodyguard who killed Taseer seems to have, at least by his own admission, grown up on a diet of retrogressive views of Islam.

The worrying aspect of this killing is that fundamentalist elements seem to have infiltrated all sections of Pakistani administration, including its security apparatus. This is an occasion for Pakistan to grasp the nettle and begin a drive against those who are killing its own people in the name of a distorted religion. Taseer was clear that politicians and the army were either going along with or were actively aiding the growth of terror.

Pakistan has lost too many people who could have prevented it from becoming a basket case. This murder should galvanise the government to crack down on the fundamentalists who are holding the country to ransom.

This is the least that Pakistan owes to Taseer, a direct descendant of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who was an exemplar of secularism and tolerance in the true tradition of Islam.