Waking up to the news of blocked roads and protests isn’t something new for a Lahoriite. I still remember last year, when Mumtaz Qadri was hanged. I was in the middle of teaching a class of children when the school started sending them home. The children, confused at what was happening, asked me why they were being sent home. I couldn’t answer them. What was I to tell these children? That a murderer was punished for something as a result of which people were protesting? Was I to tell them that in this country, if anyone speaks against an injustice, they are targeted and victimised? What was I to tell them? That a man was killed by his own guard because the man was man enough to stand up for the rights of a poor woman? What was I to tell these children? That a man who tries to defend a helpless person is murdered and called a ‘kafir’ whereas a cold blooded murderer is hailed as a hero? I did not have the courage to tell my children what a horrible society they lived in, so I remained quiet. Like we all do. Like we all always have and always will.
Salmaan Taseer was a hero. He was a hero who lost his life fighting for the truth. He was a man who dared speak against something the most powerful of rulers feared. He was a man who valued truth above all and ended up paying heavily for that. Remembering his sacrifice is vital for any Pakistani who wishes to see the country free from the claws of religious fanatics. Yet on his death anniversary each year, peaceful candle light vigils are attacked. People grieving for this man are targeted. Yet nothing is done.
Salmaan Taseer spoke against the blasphemy law which is very evidently misused in our country. A law that was created not by God but the British was given a divine status by General Zia who made it even more draconian than it originally was. It is a law that has allowed numerous people to misuse it to settle their own disputes - all in the name of God. Speaking against something of this sort made Salmaan Taseer a hero. However, he was killed by a man who currently has a shrine being built at his burial place. It wasn’t enough that Salmaan Taseer was murdered. No. For now, even remembering his death is seen as something unacceptable by Qadri supporters.
Yesterday morning came news of how how containers had been set up in the heart of the city and protests were about to start. Protests against remembering a man who was murdered by his own guard. Violent protests against peaceful candle light vigils. The following poster was being shared inviting everyone to a rally against Salman Taseer.
A basic ‘demand’ seems to be the main driving force behind this rally; a ban on any candle light vigils in remembrance of Taseer. It is perfectly fine to bring one of the biggest cities of the country to a standstill. It is perfectly fine to build a shrine for a murderer. But lighting candles for a dead man is an issue.
Our country is in the clutches of uneducated religious fanatics. It is time we stood up against them. It is time we stopped fearing and started speaking up against what’s wrong. There is power in numbers - that is pretty evident by the fact that a mob can easily put our city to a halt. Perhaps it is time for us to unite and put an end to this extremism. If they demand a ban on lighting candles for Taseer, let every house light a candle at its doorstep; how many houses will they burn down?
The time has come for us to do something for someone who died trying to make the country a more tolerant place. The time has come for us to raise our voices.
‘The hottest corners of hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.’