‘Pious’ Justice

Originally published in Express Tribune Blog on January 7, 2011.

Governor Salman Taseer’s murder at the hands of his own bodyguard has certainly rocked the proverbial Pakistani boat. Just four days into a new year—which the astrologists on TV told us would be a good one for Pakistan—a police guard turned his gun on the Governor, riddling him with 46 bullets. The assassin was led away, smiling ear to ear at his accomplishment and leaving a trail of utter madness in his wake.

Pakistan has had its share of turbulent times, and through the years we’ve found surprising ways of coping. We deny involvement, blame ‘invisible hands’ and eventually move on to the next news story that’s breaking on TV with unfortunate animations and impudent musical scores.

The situation this time has resulted in a divide between ultra-religious hardliners and the self-proclaimed modern and free-thinking public. With large and influential religious groups condoning and even applauding the assassin for his deed, the shocked and confused free-thinking public is left questioning their ideals of right and wrong.

The thing to be worried about, of course, is the implication of this assassination. An argument can certainly be made that simply speaking against a harsh sentence imposed by the Constitution (under section 295-C) does not make one wajib-ul-qatl. Even the Sahaba were known to disagree with Prophet Muhammad at times without being declared so; would they, too, be murdered today for having separate opinions? Besides, the laws we are talking about here are certainly man-made, with no basis in Quran or Sunnah.

The point of this writing, however, is to call attention to the implications of vigilante action. Praise is being heaped upon the assassin for gunning down the Governor, and the justification for murder is that what Qadir did was congruent to public sentiment. In the eyes of many, what Mr Taseer did—question the validity of a man-made law—was a greater evil than what the assassin did—murder.

The question, therefore, is this: does public sentiment outweigh Islamic and constitutional law as well as basic human rights? Can we justify murder, or rather any action, because the public “wanted it”? Why is homosexuality looked down upon then? Or prostitution? The public, or at least a majority, clearly wants it – if we can justify murder in this way, why not these? Where is the line drawn?

How different is Qadir from a suicide bomber, then, who murders innocent bystanders by blowing himself up? But Salman Taseer was not innocent, you say. Then perhaps the suicide bombings in Israel or the satanic West are justifiable, because they too are ‘enemies of Islam’ simply because we say so. What about suicide bombings in Karachi or Peshawar? Where does our passive acceptance and meek justification of mass murder end?

We that call ourselves lovers of peace and preachers of a religion as pristine as Islam are nothing but a crowd of disorderly bigots who found no greater joy than in finding fault with others. After all, if a crowd can beat two kids to death and get away with it, certainly a righteous protector of Islam can murder a wayward Governor. Am I right?