Jinnah's Pakistan: Ahead of time
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I was stunned, definitely, but not surprised at Salman Taseer's assassination. His death is just another episode in a drama that continues to be staged in Pakistan. The curtain rose on this drama when Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave that monumental, memorable, yet futile speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. And I quote him:
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State."
Jinnah, who is still widely regarded as a secular man, was the right man man in the wrong place. His concept of a new "State of Pakistan", as he noted in his speech quoted above, was floated before the wrong audience. Everything doesn't sell everywhere.
The drama I refer to is the longstanding and seemingly never-ending struggle that Pakistan's secular, liberal, progressive forces have been engaged in. This tug-of-war between the merchants of intolerance and the philanthropists of peace began the very day the idea of Pakistan was conceived.
Salman lost his life to this tug-of-war.
The secular, liberal, progressive forces of Pakistan have been dying a slow and painful death for decades.
Many others in Pakistan have fallen prey to such predators. The modus operandi of Salman's assassination reminded me the way Benazir Bhutto (BB, as I had come to call her towards the last days of her life) lost her life. Salman and BB, both died fighting intolerance — intolerance of religion, of democracy, of peace, of human rights. And, such crusaders die such deaths in Pakistan.
This reminds me of a famous piece of poetry by Munir Niazi, a renowned Pakistani poet, whose work in the Punjabi language hasn't seen many a parallel. The poem goes: