This death in Pakistan

The number of obituaries written ruing the terrible loss of Salman Taseer tells how popular he was among his fellow liberals on both sides of the border. In his death Pakistan has lost one of its most articulate, modern and fearless liberal leaders. But as somebody who knew Salman more than a bit, particularly in his street-fighting years (and my pavement-thumping years as a reporter), I am surprised by how little is said of him as a genuine Pakistani patriot and a proud Muslim. Also, while he had the Pakistani liberal's usual respect for India's democracy, his belief in the two-nation theory, the ideology of Pakistan was unshakeable. He would pamper silly a friend visiting from India but if you as much as mentioned Kashmir, he would pounce on it as if somebody had bowled one short outside Inzamam ul-Haq's off-stump.

By merely remembering him as a Pakistani liberal, as if that would disqualify one from being a staunch Pakistani nationalist and Muslim, we are not only being unfair to a most fascinating, brave and charming politician, but also missing a most significant and scary developing story in Pakistan. Pakistani anti-Indianism can broadly be divided into two categories. One is its liberal elite's intellectual dislike/ suspicion/ distrust of India based purely on our contrasting national ideologies, further coloured by an almost unanimously shared outrage over the "injustice" in Kashmir. The other stream is more simplistic, represented by some in the religious right, particularly in Pakistani Punjab, who detest India on purely religious grounds: "How seriously can you take a country run by infidels?" Until a decade ago, this was a tiny minority you could ridicule or ignore. It is no longer so. And Taseer's death has further shifted the balance in favour of these India-hating lunatics, and weakened those not exactly friends of India, the more rational, India-baiting, modern Pakistani nationalists.

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