One year on from the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, and all debate on amending the blasphemy laws has essentially come to a close.
I do not blame individual citizens for this. Given the prevailing extremist temperament in the country, it is next to impossible to effectively stand up to what is, at the end of the day, a case of bullying in the name of religion.
Given the kind of organisation and capabilities the extremists/militants have, it is very difficult for the average man or woman, appalled at the rapid rise of violent radicalism in the country, to speak out. It is not just the (very real) threat of violence that is the problem, but it is the possibility that one’s aunt, uncle, cousin, parent, or peers might have also fallen prey to this radical mindset.
In such an environment, first and foremost, it is the government that should come to the rescue, setting a precedent for what is and is not acceptable. It is the courts that should have kicked into action and delivered justice. It is the media that should have responded, reported, and questioned effectively.
So, I do not blame the individuals. I blame our institutions for failing to act in this matter across 2011, though they were given plenty of opportunities to do so. Perhaps blame is too strong a word – lets just say as a concerned citizen of Pakistan, I was hoping for better, and I got nothing.
We lost Salmaan Taseer, and while his assassin was sentenced to death, we all know who has won that battle; we lost Shahbaz Bhatti, and we all know who has won that battle; we have lost countless minorities in violent deaths across 2011, and it is clear who is winning the battle.
The marginalisation that is now upon us is alienating far more than just minorities from the notion of nationhood. I am a minority. I live in fear. I feel hopeless often, and my situation is a lot more comfortable than that of many others.
Salmaan Taseer’s death, as Saroop Ijaz wrote, was a defining one for Pakistan. It was tragic. It was a sacrifice, and it was in vain.
It is the futility of trying that cuts the deepest.