Blaming the victim

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by maomao, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

    Apr 7, 2010
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    SOMETIMES, it takes a friend`s murder to put things in perspective, and to show us exactly where the battle lines are. Salman Taseer`s brutal killing, apart from causing deep pain and grief to his family, friends and supporters, has again underlined the yawning rift in Pakistani society.

    More than the assassination itself, the proud smirk on the killer`s face, and the vocal support he has been receiving from a significant section of the media, lawyers as well as religious parties, shows us where Pakistan stands today. It is this hate-filled environment that has made rational discourse virtually impossible.

    Lacking the intellectual tools to conduct a reasoned debate on the issues of the day, religious elements in our society cling to their rigid dogma, using threats to make their point instead of logic. For anybody who disagrees with them, murder is the automatic, default response. The fact that ideological killers are seldom punished encourages them further.

    Salman refused to be cowed down by these bullies, and paid the price for his courage. But how many are willing to take a similar stand? Certainly none from the PPP. The ruling party has usually rolled over when it comes to taking on the religious right. Indeed, apart from Salman Taseer and Sherry Rehman, other senior members of the ruling PPP have ducked for cover whenever the controversial blasphemy laws have come under discussion. When Sherry Rehman moved a private member`s bill to make these laws a little less iniquitous for the minorities, she received no support from her own party.

    And while Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain and Maulana Fazlur Rahman play politics to destabilise an already unstable government, they do not seem to realise that the enemy, represented by Mumtaz Qadri, Salman Taseer`s assassin, is already within the ramparts of the state. No doubt Nawaz Sharif and the maulana think they can strike a deal with the likes of Qadri, but they should remember the fate of other politicians elsewhere who thought they could share power with extremists.

    Much is being made of the fact that a fanatic like Qadri could be assigned to a VIP security team. But in today`s Pakistan, this is the norm, not the exception. Our state schools as well as our madressahs have become breeding grounds for extremism. These ideas are then amplified across much of our media. This kind of constant brainwashing makes it hard for people to think independently and rationally.

    Successive governments, both civilian and military, have shut their eyes to what is being taught at our educational institutions. Ditto for the sermons in many mosques that are in reality little more than incitement to violence. Ditto again for the retrogressive, anti-West propaganda that passes for informed debate on many of our private TV channels.

    These are the real issues of our times, but given the growing street and media power of religious parties, few politicians are willing to even talk about them. It seems they have already conceded virtually all political space to the fundamentalists. Elected governments have been too ineffectual and too unsure of themselves to take on the religious right, while military dictators have sought to use them in a bid to gain legitimacy.

    The result is the rapid growth of a hydra-headed monster that seems to have become too powerful for state institutions to decapitate. Another reason for this weak response to an expanding threat is the lack of a political consensus. Far too many politicians fear being labelled secularists — a pejorative term in our political lexicon — and thus do not want to appear opposing groups who claim to be motivated by faith. In reality, of course, they want power as much as all politicians do.

    After Salman`s murder, the blogosphere has been full of angry and anguished postings from people who were appalled by this evil act. Well-meaning people, they are trying to connect with like-minded bloggers to formulate a response to the tragedy. They were particularly indignant over a major Urdu newspaper`s seeming support for the killer, as well as the religious groups who appeared to be threatening those mourning Salman`s death.

    The reality is that civil society is hopelessly outgunned by the forces of darkness. Abandoned by the state, and opposed by an implacable, well-armed foe, ordinary, peaceful citizens of Pakistan have few allies in this unequal battle. While people like Qadri, impatient to be in paradise, are positively itching to be killed, normal people would prefer to live out their allotted years in relative peace and security.

    This difference in approach to life and death is one reason the jihadis have the wind in their sails. If even hand-picked cops can turn their guns on the people they are supposed to be guarding, what protection do ordinary citizens have? Another factor that multiplies the right`s street power is that most of the angry, bearded faces you see on your TV screen demonstrating against virtually everything belong to people who don`t really do anything. Whereas most members of civil society have real jobs, the rank and file of religious groups get stipends, or employment with local mosques that does not interfere with their activities as political agitators. Guardian

    Declan Walsh, reporting on Salman Taseer`s funeral for the , wrote: “As graveyard workers shovelled sticky winter clay onto the coffin, many Pakistanis wondered what was disappearing into the grave with the outspoken politician.” Guardian

    Tolerance of any difference of opinion, for one. In the same issue of the , Mohammed Hanif wrote about a TV discussion in which both the presenter and a guest seemed to agree that the Punjab governor had been killed for his open criticism of the blasphemy laws. The implication was that somehow, Salman`s views justified his murder. The same school of thought holds that Benazir Bhutto could have avoided her fate had she not stood up in her bullet-proof vehicle.

    Both are typical instances of blaming the victim. By absolving the killers of their guilt, even mainstream media figures help to create an environment where murder is justified.

    I first met Benazir Bhutto after her return from exile in 1986 at Salman`s home where, at her request, he had invited PPP women workers who had suffered under Zia`s martial law. Salman had also asked a few friends over to meet Ms Bhutto. Reflecting on that evening, I thought that two qualities the host and the guest of honour shared were courage, and an abiding respect for other points of view. May both of them rest in peace.
  3. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

    Apr 7, 2010
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    Who will fight back?

    THE morning of the governor`s assassination, I found myself arguing there are no ideological divisions left in Pakistani politics anymore. `Right` or `Left` have lost all meaning, which is why the PPP can seek alliances with the PML-N, the ANP, the MQM, the JUI-F, the PML-F, Fata MPs and even the PML-Q, the `Qatil` League, to try and cling on in power.

    The name of the game is power, and nothing else matters. But I was wrong.

    At least in the public imagination, there does exist an ideological divide — and the PPP is on the wrong side of it. la deen`

    Godless, secular, `, the PPP and its leaders are everything the Children of Zia loathe. Taseer`s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, born in 1985, is the quintessential child of Zia.

    At least at the level of signalling, the PPP does confirm its public reputation. And privately, I find PPP leaders to be among the more sensible and warm, their worldview free of hate, their language couched in a kind of humanism difficult to detect elsewhere.

    The ANP and the MQM come closest to the PPP in this regard, but there`s always a lingering suspicion of instrumentalism — about the lack of genuine belief in the values they publicly espouse — and their track records always give pause.

    But here`s the difficulty with the PPP, too: even if you believe there is genuine unease in the party at the trajectory the country is on, the PPP has done no more or no less than other mainstream political players to help nudge the country along in that terrible direction.

    ZAB of course desperately pandered to the right as the opposition from those quarters mounted. BB`s first term you can write off because it was so brief and she was so completely on the defensive that little blame can genuinely be attributed to her.

    But what did she do in the second term? Naseerullah Babar`s notorious boast that `we` created the Taliban — factually incorrect as `we` came to the party after it had begun — quickly became a millstone around the PPP`s neck, and the country`s, too.

    As for the great `Islamist` Sharifs? When the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan tried to pop off the brothers during Nawaz Sharif`s second term, they smashed the SSP with the ruthlessness of an us-or-them conviction.

    Sure, you could argue that just as the PML-N is more likely to go after `vulgar` plays in Lahore, the PPP is always more likely to issue more liquor permits in Sindh — but that`s not really where the war for the future of Pakistan is being fought.

    When it comes to using state power, the major political parties have a pretty equal, and pretty awful, record of opposing the infrastructure of jihad.

    Perhaps the worst of the lot so far in this respect has been Asif Zardari. Sure he says all the right things, in his glib, oily way, but what has he really done?

    Taseer, his hatchet guy in Punjab against the PML-N, said and did all the right things as far as the boss was concerned, but when the chips were down what did Zardari do?

    He didn`t publicly rebuke his flunky, Babar Awan. He issued no orders to prosecute, arrest or even plain investigate the agents of hate. And the friend of friends wasn`t even there to see his loyalist lowered into an early grave. The Guardian

    Declan Walsh of has written that Taseer was left “swinging in a lonely wind” after the Aasia Bibi case became a “political football”. “Zardari was powerless to act,” according to Declan.

    Possibly. That Zardari is often powerless to act is obvious enough. But at least you can admire a man who fights for something he believes in, who stands up for his friends when it matters.

    Instead, we are left with the rumour of a president who is spending a few weeks by the sea at the suggestion of a soothsayer.

    Then again, the full horror of what we are confronted with goes far beyond the non-battles of a single leader or political party.

    A favourite sparring partner I refer to as a culture warrior has long argued for more public fierceness, for pushing back in ways big and small against those hawking the intolerance and hate the country is awash in.

    The hate-mongers in the vernacular media are particularly malign influences. Having seen the ugliness up close and the slyness with which it is foisted off on an unsuspecting public, you can`t help but feel a little ill.

    And let`s not forget the original sinners.

    A friend who has witnessed up close the country`s slide over the past three decades sent me a note soon after Taseer`s slaying:

    “This may be an individual act. But look at this: Governor shot dead by own guard; country in turmoil; Government lost majority two days back but moral authority long ago; Gilani doesn`t have support in parliament; Zardari is corrupt and discredited; economy is in meltdown; Sharif`s unable to provide alternative leadership. Who emerges as the sole survivor? Yes, you guessed it Kayani. Back to square one. (Expletive deleted) patrons of fundos will soon be back.”

    Who will or won`t be back is hard to say. Easier, though, it is to find where primary responsibility lies for the horrors Pakistan is facing today: with the self-appointed custodians of the national interest.

    And increasingly if there is anything we should fault Asif Zardari for, it should be for surrendering without a fight on that front.

    The comeback the army has made, the total control it is exercising over national-security policy, the return to a position of singular prestige in the national imagination, all of that may eventually have come to pass anyway.

    But because no meaningful resistance was offered, it has happened in double-quick time.

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