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Where does responsibility lie?

Laleh Habib

On Tuesday last, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani addressed members of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society and spoke of the need for collective efforts to confront the biggest challenges facing Pakistan, namely terrorism and extremist tendencies.  Gilani directed this address to members of the media, as way of shaming them into stepping up to their role as the fourth estate. However, one might ask the same of Gilani’s government. And while we’re at it, we could add a comprehensive and coherent strategy against terrorism to the list of demands.

Salmaan Taseer’s assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, confessed that he was inspired by the Barelvi cleric, Mufti Mohammad Hanif Qureshi Qadri. Mufti Qadri, the ameer of Rawalpindi based group, Shahab-e-Islami Pakistan, convinced the 26 year old Mumtaz Qadri that the governor of Punjab was Wajibul Qatil, and deserved to die. Three days later, Mumtaz Qadri fired 27 shots into Salmaan Taseer’s back. Confessing before an anti-terrorism court, Qadri revealed his mentor’s identity. His mentor too, was busy. Mufti Mohammad Hanif Qadri organized rallies to support his protégé, whom he called a ‘hero of Islam.’ Mufti Qadri also continues to lead the Friday prayers at his Rawalpindi mosque, where he presumably inspires others like the young Qadri. There are also several dozen videos of Mufti Hanif Qadri sermonizing on YouTube, including one video where he is joined by Mumtaz Qadri’s brother. These videos have gotten tens of thousands of hits.

Elsewhere in the country, scores of mullahs have been giving similar sermons. Clerics at Sultan Masjid in Karachi have declared Sherry Rehman a non-Muslim and Wajibul Qatil. Like Salmaan Taseer, Sherry Rehman dared oppose the blasphemy law.

The government of Punjab has not arrested Mufti Mohammad Hanif Qureshi. Nor have their stopped the clerics at Sultan Masjid and other clerics across the country from issuing similar fatwas. While the government had condemned Salmaan Taseer’s murder, many would argue that they have not been strong, coherent or forceful enough in their approach.

Meanwhile, there have been no amendments of the blasphemy laws, that Salmaan Taseer fought, and ultimately died trying to change.  Gilani’s own reaction was to spurn Pope Benedict XVI call that Pakistan should abrogate the law. At a press talk after the OIC village’s inaugural ceremony, Prime Minster Gilani reiterated his governments’ stance that the law would not be amended. He urged the government once again to show responsibility.

Perhaps it’s time that the government tried showing some responsibility or some consistency with regards to this Frankenstein of extremism.

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