A radicalised Pakistan’s long-drawn struggle to de-radicalise itself took a key turn when the law of the land took its due course, resulting in Mumtaz Qadri’s hanging. However, it is what happens next that will define the narrative around Qadri and whether his hanging will help Pakistan on its way to de-radicalisation.
The country has been at the cross-roads of an impending ideological shift for a long time now. In a slow move towards realising the trouble that we have engulfed ourselves in, there have been multiple tipping points in our war against violent extremism. Bone-chilling stories of the Hazara genocide, the Mehran airbase attack, the APS attack — on multiple occasions, we have somehow managed to find a small voice to highlight what is evidently very wrong.
But for every protest against the APS attack, there is an Abdul Aziz. For every potential ideological shift against radicalisation, there are calls by the Jamaat-e-Islami to protest against Qadri’s hanging.
The state’s continued inaction after Salman Taseer’s murder went a long way in making Mumtaz Qadri the hero that he has become for many. Qadri’s famous court appearances saw hundreds of lawyers coming out in his support. He was able to inspire the formation of a Mumtaz Qadri Lovers’ Forum. Such has been the support for Qadri that it took our judicial system five years to exercise its authority. Basically, it took our state five years to gather the courage to execute a man who had confessed to having committed a murder. In such a context, many of us will see this as a small yet meaningful victory. However, this, in itself, is an indictment of our society.
As anticipated, Qadri’s hanging has led to protests in various parts of the country. His funeral was reportedly attended by 100,000 people. While the protests have been blacked out by the country’s electronic media, it is how the state reacts to these protests that is of importance to us. Qadri was served with justice and that is the end of his story. But those who glorify him need to be talked to with reasoning.
Isn’t it ironic that those who glorify Qadri do so under a false sense of love and reverence for a man who is remembered by everyone as an institution of compassion? Perhaps we have been blessed with a special moral compass that allows us to consider the possibility of killing others like this.
There is a need for an honest, state-led dialogue on this issue and the need is greater today than it was ever before. This is also where Pakistan’s political leadership needs to stand up and help in weaving a narrative of de-radicalisation. There are scores of people on the streets who believe that Qadri had a right to take away another man’s life. Many might call this a reductionist approach but this is what it boils down to — the fact that Qadri murdered another human being.
Qadri’s supporters idolise him as someone who epitomised the selflessness that a true Muslim should possess. But the tale of selflessness and compassion as shown by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Taif is what we need to relate to instead of the one that Qadri propagated.
Pakistan’s fight against violent extremism presupposes that the problem of radicalisation will take care of itself. Unfortunately, that will not happen. Even though there has been a lot of talk around the National Action Plan, the state has still not been able to register religious seminaries and mosques. If a prayer-leader at the next Friday sermon goes on a tirade against an “apostate” government that took dictation from the west to hang a true believer like Qadri, who do you report it to?
And if the laws will remain as they are then a question that needs answering is who committed blasphemy after all? Taseer, who asked for an end to the misuse of the law? Or Qadri, who violated the law and took it into his own hands to protect the same law? It sounds paradoxical.
This is a dangerous conversation to have, but one that is extremely critical. For, if we really want to live in a Pakistan free from the suffocating hold of radicalisation, we must immediately address the mindset that continues to penetrate through the masses.
An edited version of this post, titled ‘Pakistan on the side of justice’, was published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2016.