Blasphemy Laws: Struggle for Pakistan's Soul
Paper presented at seminar on 'The Assassinattion of Governor Punjab in the Context of the Blasphemy Law,' School of Oriental and Afrrican Studies, University of London, 12 January 2011.
Murderous events after events in recent years had established that extremism was a serious problem facing Pakistan. However, throughout this time, the common argument was that a vast majority of Pakistanis were a hostage to a minority of extremists: You get rid of this minority, and the problem is solved. Depressingly so, the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has unmasked this myth—as the barbaric event, its prelude and postscript, seem to suggest that extremism is quite a widespread phenomenon in the country. It is not just the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan rejoicing over the murder of a top Pakistani politician, or the Jamaat-e-Islami justifying its rationale. It is not merely an outcome of Deobandis’-led jihadi violence or part of an al-Qaeda plan to destabilize Pakistan. The act has a consensual approval of the country’s mainstream Barelvi Sunni ulema, the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat Pakistan. It is now established that fatwas and sermons by Barelvi clerics incited Mumtaz Qadri, himself a committed Barelvi, into this murderous action. If this was not enough, soon after the tragic incident, the Sunni Tehrik in Karachi was reportedly able to gather over 50,000 followers to celebrate the murder and pay tributes to the murderer. Full Text