Tallat Azim The fog that descended on our cities in the last week has transcended the environment and has actually managed to settle into our minds and souls. Our vision is blurred and we cannot see into the future. Just when a fierce debate was raging of how long the government will survive if it is not able to show its majority in the Parliament, Punjabs Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own bodyguard in Islamabad. Right in the middle of Kohsar Market, in broad daylight, as he came out of Table Talk one of the most frequented eateries in the safest area of the city. This is the level of infiltration or indoctrination we face even amongst those who have been positioned to keep us safe. Even if the demand for deweaponisation of society is heeded, we will remain in fear from being killed by those carrying guns officially because, clearly, we are now hostages to everyone who does not agree with our point of view. Death is the price for difference of opinion. It is especially sad because all of us, to the last Muslim man and woman in the Islamic Republic, are agreed that our Prophet (PBUH) is the most revered Last Messenger of God. It is also true that the anti-blasphemy law was not being amended. The debate was centred on how to improve it further by preventing its misuse. The seeds of religious intolerance sown by Ziaul Haq 30 years ago and the space given to the religious right have now fully grown into a demon, which is almost impossible to handle. Despite having no electoral backing the clerical armies have managed to instil fear into all whose opinions are different from theirs. By raising religiously emotive slogans, these parties hope to enlarge their support base. The semi-literate are the most vulnerable to this sloganeering because for them it becomes easy to believe that anyone who tries to make the blasphemy law less amenable to misuse is actually committing blasphemy. The same anger should be focused towards the injustices and inequalities that are prevalent in society. That is the common jihad that should be fought across the board and by all classes on both sides of the divide. The two extremely different sets of educational systems being followed in this country are the major reason for having such extremely different mindsets. There is no compatibility between the curriculum of elite private schools and that of government schools and madrassahs. The students of both systems, as a friend put it, live in parallel realities with no common frame of reference. Even if it takes 20 years to fix this situation fully, efforts to solve this problem must be set in motion on an emergency footing. The state has to accept its responsibility of educating all its citizens to enable and develop their capacity for rational thinking. The PPP has caved in fully at the first sign of pressure. It does not have a unified stand on any subject and its army of federal ministers continues to say different things, which only leads to further confusion. While questions are being put as to why no action was taken when head money was announced for Aasias killers and blatant banners displayed for same in major cities, the Interior Minister himself makes the announcement that I will shoot down any gustakh-e-rasool myself. This is not a time to play with words loosely. This is a time to preach tolerance. No one is above the law. Whether it is Aasia Bibi or Mumtaz Qadri or Rehman Malik. The PPP government, when the dust settles, has to resolve the numbers game in Parliament to stay on in power. It moves in small thrusts and steps. Given how quickly situations alter here, the buying-time strategy seems to hold them in good stead. This party of the liberals has proven, yet again, that it makes a better opposition party, rather than the party in power, because it remains scared of changing the status quo. The people just watch and wait. There is a general sense of despondency. Because even if there is a call for mid-term elections, there is no new leadership that is waiting in the wings and that is all geared up to bringing forth the change that we yearn for. Postscript: The Supreme Court has asked that the Ministry of Religious Affairs better hurry up on the payment of 700 riyals each to the Hajis for not providing them with adequate facilities during Haj this year. It will be for the first time that such a reimbursement will happen. During the investigations, it has also come to light that the Prime Ministers own son, through a friend, was also involved in this scam. It is indeed ironic that the gaddi-nasheens of Multan, a city famed for its saints, should be so different from their ancestors. But nonetheless, this development augers well because no one can be or should be, according to the best practices of our peaceful religion, be above the law. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com