PERSONAL POLITICAL: Manufacturing a ‘hero’

Article published Jan 30, 2011 in The News on Sunday – and in Hardnews, India (‘Blood upon the altar‘)

PERSONAL POLITICAL
Manufacturing a ‘hero’
By Beena Sarwar

The assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has been termed a ‘watershed moment’ for Pakistan — not just because a sitting governor of the country’s wealthiest and most populous province was murdered in broad daylight by one of his own security guards. Perhaps the greater shock was how the murderer, Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was allowed to commit this crime and how many hailed him as a hero for having killed someone perceived (falsely) as being guilty of ‘blasphemy’.

Qadri being assigned to guard the Punjab Governor raises questions about the workings of the security apparatus. How could a man who was dismissed from Special Branch because of his extremist views be assigned to guard a high-profile target already under threat from extremists — especially since the murderer reportedly requested this guard duty?

Further, why were standard operating procedures not followed when the first shot was fired? Why did the other guards just stand by and allow Qadri to empty not one but two clips of his submachine gun into the unarmed Governor? They arrested Qadri after he threw up his hands in surrender, handling him with the utmost care and respect. Why was a man who had just murdered a helpless man not even cuffed?

To top it all, how was the opportunity created to transform Qadri into a celebrity? Who informed people about his court appearances, resulting in crowds gathering, chanting slogans and showering him with rose petals? Television cameras broadcast all this, further glorifying the murderer. These slogans, and the banners and posters supporting Qadri that have cropped up around the country, have not only turned this man’s cowardice — in shooting at an unarmed victim — into some kind of heroism, it has resulted in further intimidation of anyone who supports amendments to the controversial, man-made ‘blasphemy laws’.

Such was the manufactured hype and the propaganda around Qadri’s supposed act of valour that a group of lawyers (mostly supporters of the PML-N and PML-Q) hailed him as a hero and vowed to fight his case pro bono. And these are the people who are supposed to uphold rule of law.

Then there was the preposterous video clip of the murderer in police custody, singing a ‘naat’, apparently filmed by policeman on his cell-phone and released to the media and the internet.

The glorification of Qadri’s criminal act of murder could not be possible without the vilification of Salmaan Taseer’s supposed ‘blasphemy’ — for which there is not an iota of evidence anywhere. The build-up to the murder owes much to the Pakistani TV talk shows and channels that perpetuated this false propaganda against the Governor. This propaganda is what led to the widespread belief that the Governor was somehow, preposterously, guilty of his own murder — in much the same way that attention is diverted to what a rape victim was wearing or doing.

The media editors and bosses belatedly realised the effect that the constant exposure of Qadri was having. According to a senior inside source at a major TV channel, they have since got together and agreed informally to cut down on such coverage that was serving only to glorify the murderer.

The 24/7 news channels amplified the outrageous propaganda of the ‘religious right’ that preceded the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer apparently because he took up the case of Aasiya Noreen, the poor Christian woman sentenced to death by a Sessions Court for ‘blasphemy’. Taseer tried to obtain a presidential pardon for her even before her case came up for hearing before the Lahore High Court, which must confirm the death sentence or acquit an accused. Taseer did not say anything that human rights organisations like the HRCP have not been saying for years but he was flamboyant about it, while being a political thorn in the side of the Punjab government.

There was propaganda also against Sherry Rehman, the PPP parliamentarian who has submitted a bill to amend the ‘blasphemy laws’ in order to prevent their abuse and misuse. The propaganda against her included the outright lie that she was acting alone and had not taken other parliamentarians into confidence. The truth is that she had lobbied extensively behind the scenes and even got the opposition PML-N to agree not to oppose the bill once it was tabled.

The agreement of the TV channels to avoid publicising Qadri’s words and deeds, although belated, is a welcome step. The next step is to take criminal action against all those indulging in hate speech and incitements to murder. Some citizens have begun to register such complaints with the police. Will the government stand by them?

9 Responses

  1. Qadri belongs in prison and in a democracy he will be punished as by law.Asia Bibi is paying the price for a crime she did not commit and there to be released from prison and re-united with her family and look for a save country to live.

    • no one here is a right to decide the fate of other whether they committed a crime or not ,but offcource they have a proofs to prove them criminal or innocent then they can do what they like or decide …so if you have proofs that Asia is innocent then go ahead otherwise she facing the result of her deeds and QADRI ALSO WILL AND MUST HAVE TO FACE

  2. He looks like a well-fed sacrificial ‘dumbah’ (lamb), a symbol of sheer animalism. This is the depth of barbaric mean-ness to which a human can fall and that too in the name of ‘hurmat-e-Rasoo, called ‘Rehmatulaalimin’ by Allah. And above all how is the PM, claiming himself to be ‘Aal-Rasool’, is behaving with rank opportunism. Has he forgotten how they had behaved with the beloved grandson of the prophet who was killed treacherously and his family rampaged by this very kind of barbarians, all this in the name of his naana’s religion.

    We seem veritably to have come to face the same kind of Karbala and are standing at the brink of an inferno today as Allamah Iqbal had once said:

    ‘آگ ہے اولادے ابراہیم ہے نمرود ہے
    کیا کسی کو پھر کسی کا امتحاں مقصود ہے

  3. excellent piece Beena, came across it only now…very clear and precise. Thanks!

    • Thank you :)

  4. THE ONE WHO BELIEVE THAT QADRI HAD DONE RIGHT AND SHOULD NOT BE HANGED OR PUNSHIED AS A MURDERER , MUST BE TRIED AS CRIMANALS FOR NOT DOING THEMSELF OR EVERY SO CALLED MUSLIM MOLVI LEADERS MUST PRESENT LEGAL AMENDENT IN N. ASSEMBLY THAT EVERY CITIZEN HAS A RIGHT TO MURDER THE ONE WHO HE FEELS IS INVOVLED IN TOHEEN RISAALAT. I PERSONNELY BELIEVE THAT TOHEEN RISAALAT PAK IS A CRIME BUT PUNISHMENT MUST BE GIVEN BY JUDICIARY NOT BY INDIVIDUALS

  5. @Nyar You say: “I PERSONNALY BELIEVE THAT TOHEEN RISAALAT PAK IS A CRIME”

    Certainly, ‘touheen’ , meaning, insult, defamation, etc., of any body is a moral and legal offence, but being a purely subjective and a personal feeling it is not always possible to determine it objectively for any body other than oneself, the victim, and the punishment that would be justified in each case.

    As for the individual having a supreme mission to perform it would not be practicable for him to be involved in settling personal insults which his detractors would like him to indulge in.

    Take the case of Jinnah, a mere politician, having no comparison with the prophet, even he never reacted to the insults hurled upon him by the mullah by calling him kafir, toady, etc.

    There are numerous instances where the prophet (RA) himself ignored very obvious personal insults during his life.

    In one instance seeing an Arab misbehave before the prophet, Umar Farooq pulled out his sword to kill that Arab but the prophet stopped him from doing that and said,”Umar, do you want me to be known as exterminator of the Arabs when I have been sent by God to save and civilise them”.

    • DEAR READINGLORD I FULLY AGREE WITH YOU AND SUGGEST THAT THESE TYPE OF MULLAS AND RELIGIOUS ACTORS MUST BE BRUTALLY PUNISHED AT THE TIME THEY PROPAGATE BEFORE ANY ACTION IVER THAT LINE

  6. The other day, I happened to see a talk show on blasphemy law on Express News TV. Speaking against the grant of forgiveness to the blasphemy accused on the analogy of the prophet having done that in a number of cases, a pro-BL said that the prophet had a right to do that which we , the Ummati, cannot do, i.e., to forgive any one guilty of blasphemy and this argument appeared to have clinched the discussion.

    The main antic of the mullah in general is that they install themselves as scion or inheritor (وارث) of the prophet as their expediency demands and treat them as ‘ummati’ when it suites them otherwise. They, however, never let go their prerogative to lead the prayer like the prophet did instead of standing in line with the namazies in general and thus blatantly defying the quranic injunction which says, “Warkaoo maarraakiein (Jhuko jhukne waalon ke saath)”.

    I think we cannot be successful unless we confront the ‘Deen-e-Mullah’, entrenched in the mosque and armed with the holy loud and blasphemy law. Though many of the true Islamic leaders and thinkers failed to dislodge the Mullah I think we can do this now armed with the power of reason and unprecedented access to knowledge about Quran and Sunnah provided by the Internet.

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