It is becoming increasingly apparent that shaheed Salman Taseer’s murder and the events before and after his death were an outcome of a carefully crafted strategy by you-know-who.
While the tools or operatives used for Taseer’s murder were religious (Islamofascist to be exact), the motives were clearly political.
Salman Taseer’s murder is a reminder that the establishment are the Islamofascists, the civil society are the Islamopatriots and the mullahs are the foot soldiers. The establishment creates a narrative that is based on a warped understanding of religion, history and politics, the foot soldiers are activated to enforce the narrative, and the right-wing and liberal proxies in the civil society are used to propagate the narrative.
Alarmed by the fast increasing hatred of Pakistani population towards jihadi and sectarian proxies of the State (most of them of extremist Deobandi origin but also some of extremist Ahl-e-Hadith origin including the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba etc) in the last three years, the military establishment really needed to forge a unity between moderate Islamist parties (of Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Shia etc) and the extremist Islamofascist parties (Jamaat-e-Islami, Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba etc).
In order to achieve that aim, a plan was hatched to create an impression of a divide between “the party of the people” and the people of Pakistan and to engineer a unity amongst the forces of the right wing.
The plan was initiated by giving a twisted and provocative media coverage to the blasphemy law and the Aasia bibi case in Pakistan’s dominantly right-wing electronic and print media.
The objective of this exercise was to:
1. Create a divided between the Pakistan Peoples Party and moderate Islamist parties, in particular those of the Barelvi sect which has the largest religious following in Pakistan;
2. Create a point of unity between the anti-Taliban Barelvis (JUP, ST) and the pro-Taliban Deobandis (JI, JUI, SSP, LeJ) and Ahl-e-Hadith (LeT, JuD)
3. Repair the broken religious alliance between Islamofascist parties and moderate Islamist parties (to restore the pro-military establishment Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal);
4. Create an environment of fear for religious minorities in Pakistan;
5. Create an artificial hype on the blasphemy law and Aasia bibi case to aggravate and exploit ordinary Muslims’ sensitivities.
Why was Taseer targeted?
Taseer had used his position as Governor of the Punjab to expose the religio-political activities of the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Taiba. He warned about the “Talibanisation” of Punjab province. In particular, he pointed towards an unannounced but very much real alliance between PML-N and Sipah-e-Sahaba, a pro-Taliban sectarian group comprising extremist Deobandis.
Political motives of the murder
According to the PPP Information Secretary, Fauzia Wahab, situation has cleared that the murder of Salman Taseer has more political motives than religious motives. She said that this is not only the work of any religious extremists but Punjab administration is equally responsible in this murder. She said that Mumtaz Qadri had decided three days before to kill Governor Punjab, though by that time nobody was aware of Governor Punjab’s visit to Islamabad as due to security reasons the movement of VIPs keep secret. She said the question arises as to how Qadri got information about the visit of Governor Punjab, as he told his colleagues three days in advance that he will kill Governor Punjab, why they were silent and why they avoided any action against him while he shot the Governor”. (Source)
Saeed Shah (Guardian) notes:
While terrorist acts are generally associated with an extremist fringe, the gunning down of Taseer appeared to have significant support that reached into the heart of society. Both the large religious political [Deobandi] parties [JI and JUI-F] declared that he had deserved to be killed for his views.
Taseer’s call for the widely-abused blasphemy law to be reformed or abolished was misrepresented in such a manner in Pakistan’s electronic and print media, made so incendiary that it united rival Islamic schools of thought against any change, the moderate Barelvi sect with the pro-Taliban Deobandis.
Mumtaz Qadri, Taseer’s killer, was in the Barelvi sect, which is followed by most Muslims in Pakistan. However, on the issue of the blasphemy law, the Barelvi clerics had joined hands with the pro-Taliban Deobandi. The issue was sparked by Taseer’s character assassination by the right wing media, because he voiced his support for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy late last year.
“No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salmaan Taseer,” a statement from Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, one of the biggest organisations of the Barelvi, representing 500 religious scholars, said. “We pay rich tributes and salute the bravery, valour and faith of Mumtaz Qadri.”
Same theme can be read in Mohammed Hanif’s article:
Last year, a wave of suicide bombings across the country targeted Sufi shrines, the places millions of Pakistanis have traditionally preferred to mosques. Now the devotees of these shrines publicly pledge to save them through an armed struggle. But when it comes to the honour of our Holy Prophet the devotees of these shrines and those who consider this whole shrine thing a big bad blasphemy, all come together.
Taseer’s assassination and the reaction by the majority Barelvi ulema and public suggests that the military establishment’s strategy has been, at least for now, quite successful.
The PPP has lost one of its ablest and bravest leaders in the Punjab province. Moderate Muslims of the Barelvi sect today share a platform with the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jamaat-e-Islami on the artificial pretext of defending the honour of the Prophet.
Public sentiments which were previously directed against violent terrorists of the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Taiba have been carefully redirected (in fact misdirected) against certain non-existent individuals and organizations who are blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad. Blasphemy which is a non-issue has been turned into an issue, a PPP key leader has been killed and the killers and their proxies are blaming Taseer for his own murder. Religious sentiments are being used exploit the people’s sentiments against Salman Taseer and the PPP.
Multi-pronged attack: Civil society proxies of the establishment
There is also an element of multi-pronged attack on the PPP. While Islamofascists (right wing proxies) are alleging that the PPP is insensitive to Muslims’ sentiments on the blasphemy law, the liberal proxies of the military establishment are attacking the PPP leadership on the pretext that the PPP leaders abandoned Salman Taseer in his stance on the blasphemy law.
The Guardian’s reporter in Pakistan, Declan Walsh, who is notorious for reinforcing and propagating Pakistan’s military establishment’s narratives wrote:
“We need to find out if this is an attempt to destabilise Pakistan,” said law minister Babar Awan, announcing the inevitable judicial enquiry. But the tired rhetoric masked a less palatable truth: Taseer had been abandoned by his own party…Senior figures in his own party turned tail.
Interestingly in the same article, Walsh admits:
The U-turn was the product of a huge miscalculation. At the start of the Aasia Bibi affair, President Asif Ali Zardari suggested he might pardon the Christian woman if she was convicted. But he stalled, apparently hoping to extract political mileage from the affair. Two weeks later the Lahore high court, which had a history of antagonism with Zardari, issued an order forbidding him from issuing a pardon. The issue became a political football, a struggle between the government, the courts and the mullahs. Zardari was powerless to act.
Once again, Walsh offers us a twisted conclusion by stating that “This act of violence is a manifestation of the oldest debate in Pakistan, about the place of Islam in society.”
You are wrong, Mr Walsh.
It is not a question about the place of Islam in Pakistan’s society. It is a question about the military establishment’s incessant, systemic investment into the Islamofascism industry in Pakistan for its specific strategic (external) and political (internal) agendas.
Taseer’s killing in Islamabad on 4 January 2011 cannot and must not be seen in isolation, for example, from Professor Munir Hussain’s killing in D.I.Khan on the same date. This, then, could be too much of research and thinking for Mr Walsh whose sources in Pakistan are confined to the same urban middle class English speaking “intellectuals” who are convenient servants and friends of the “establishment”.
In short, the “civil” society narrative that the PPP abandoned Salman Taseer in his fight against extremism is yet another misrepresentation of the facts to serve the anti-PPP and anti-democracy agenda of the military establishment.
Related Post: Another wish-wash by Declan Walsh on Karchi ethnic divide, deconstructed here by our author Shaista Aazar