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Barely two months after Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's cold-blooded murder, Bhatti was the next one to fall. Their "crime" was the support they had publicly offered to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy against the prophet of Islam.
As soon as I got this news, and much before I could feel sad, I found myself dialling 0092 (being a journalist means less emotion, more action) to find someone in Pakistan who could write an article for The Indian Express' s opinion section. A colleague asked if I knew any "isaayi"(Christian) from Pakistan who could write. My first reaction was: "Um, I'll have to think." Second reaction: "Most of Pakistan's Christians haven't had the opportunity to grow into articulate, expressive individuals." Third reaction: "Whoever writes against Pakistan's blasphemy law, will be risking it for himself/herself."
The third reaction applied to just about everyone, irrespective of religion.
I finally commissioned the piece to my dear friend, Ayesha Siddiqa, one of the most well-known hands on defence and strategy in Pakistan. I thought long and hard about her safety after the piece gets printed but explained myself that she is anyway, living on borrowed time.
A lot of my friends in Pakistan are living on borrowed time.
Death threats are handed to the secular, liberal, progressive, and add to that, outspoken, lot of Pakistan like exhibition catalogues.
This calls for some analysis.
This secular, liberal, progressive and outspoken lot has always been present in Pakistan, despite all its social shortcomings and shortfalls, the muzzling and the gagging, et al. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib, Ahmed Faraz, Munir Niazi are some well-known rebels who defied not only the political clampdown of their times but also documented their rebellion in their poetry. They, obviously and expectedly invited censorship of their work and of the larger media industry of their times.