How the 29th of February, 2016, gets written down in history depends not on the facts that led to the events of this day but on the perception of the masses about today’s events. Yesterday, Mumtaz Qadri, the man who murdered Salmaan Taseer was finally hanged after a trial that went on for years. While it may seem to make perfect sense to everyone that a murderer got punished for his crime, Pakistan seems to be in a state of chaos. Protestors all over the country have come out on the streets, condemning Qadri’s sentence.
While it may seem that the Taseer family has finally managed to get justice, the truth is that the glorification of Mumtaz Qadri that has come in a new wave following his hanging must be painful for the family. The man who murdered their father and husband is being hailed as a hero by thousands if not more. The situation leaves us wondering where we went wrong. Why is it that a murderer’s sentence is being condemned? Are we a nation of vicious, vile monsters?
The problem isn’t the support for a man who committed murder. The problem is within the ideology that justifies murder. The problem is within the historical glorification of a man who did something not too different from what Mumtaz Qadri did. Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed was also a man who committed murder in the name of God as a result of which he ended up getting two honorary titles; Ghazi - someone who manages to emerge from a war alive and Shaheed – a martyr. The problem lies within the law that despite Qadri’s death, lives on and continues being supported by many. The problem lies within the fact that there is a law in the Constitution of our country that can be misused by many to settle their personal scores.
Ever since yesterday morning, I have not only witnessed people changing their Facebook display pictures to those of Mumtaz Qadri’s but have also been seeing the same titles – Ghazi and Shaheed – being used for Qadri in a similar manner that they were used for Ilm Din. This, however, doesn’t come as a surprise. Ilm Din was supported not only by the masses but was supported by some of the most prominent figures of that time. Allama Iqbal, for example, after burying Ilm Din is reported to have said, “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated ones.” It is also important to mention here that Jinnah, the founder of our nation, in his appeal said that ‘Ilm Din was a man of 19 or 20 who was affected by feelings of veneration for the founder of his faith.’ The fact that the main people leading to the creation of this state held such views for a murderer says a lot about how the Muslim community has been constantly considering itself and its sentiments superior to everyone else.
As long as the ideology that promotes bloodshed is not addressed, such Ghazis and Shaheeds will continue emerging. So many of Qadri's followers wish to be in his position one day. With people blindly willing to kill and get killed to protect ‘religious sentiments’, this bloodbath will never cease to exist. Had the problem been tackled during Ilm Din’s time, there perhaps wouldn’t have been a Mumtaz Qadri today. Had Ilm Din never been glorified, Qadri might not have had an inspiration. Had human life been given priority over everything else, since the very first day someone thought of murdering another person over religion, the world would have been a better place.
As we sit in our homes in fear of when the next wave of protests may erupt, Qadri’s followers continue their mourning with heightened emotions. The ideology that should have died down by now has been fuelled fiercer than ever. History will remember Mumtaz Qadri not only as a coldblooded murderer, but as a brave warrior who lost his life in the name of religion. For every person who will see Qadri as a monster, there will be another person who will think of him as a hero. The only way to prevent another Mumtaz Qadri from rising is to address the ideology that has led to this chaos. It is time the government addressed the blasphemy laws of Pakistan.