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Dealing with the devil -by Mahreen Khan

The writer is a barrister and a public policy graduate from Harvard University mahreen.khan@tribune.com.pk

The brutal and horrific assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer is indescribable, not just for having taken place but for its aftermath and the deep fissures which have been torn into our national sanity.

The murder was carried out not by a member of the public or a terrorist, but by members of the Punjab police force itself. Not only the gunman, but all those assigned to protect Governor Taseer that day were complicit in the murder. The moral, if not the legal, responsibility lies firmly with the Punjab government of Shahbaz Sharif and its Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. However, the Punjab government’s record on law and order has been abysmal and even criminal — far from weeding out extremist elements, they have nurtured, suckled and even colluded with extremist religious outfits in the province.

Rana Sanaullah’s reaction to the brutal, brazen killing of Salmaan Taseer speaks volumes. Sanaullah, barely within a couple of hours of Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, displayed no emotion or outrage on the shockingly brutal murder, compared to 24 hours previously, when he could barely contain his rage as he spewed venomous statements against political rivals. Yet he could not even muster a blip of outrage in his statement about the governor’s heinous killing. Only the most perfunctory of statements expressing the obligatory ‘regret’ was made. When questioned, Sanaullah did not even feel that any senior police officer need be suspended pending the investigation. Rana often targeted the governor with harsh invective during his life. Clearly he is unable to rise above that political partiality even after the governor’s death. He even made statements impugning the governor’s reasons for taking up Aasia Bibi’s case, implying that it was a political stunt to garner minority votes for the PPP. Rana Sanaullah should have no input nor role in any aspect of the investigation into the governor’s murder, particularly when his connections to extremist religious organisations are examined.

In March 2010, Rana Sanaullah was pictured campaigning alongside Sipah-i-Sahaba leaders in official vehicles, guarded by the Punjab police, so that they could muster votes from their supporters in the Jhang by-election, which the PML-N subsequently won. It was Salmaan Taseer who wrote an official complaint to the chief minister, demanding that Rana Sanaullah be dismissed for such an overt endorsement of a banned terrorist organisation. Shahbaz Sharif did nothing.

Punjab’s law and order under Sanaullah and Shahbaz has deteriorated severely. In February 2010, there was an attempt to murder Sheikh Rasheed, another political rival of the Sharifs’, by gunmen in Rawalpindi who killed two of his guards. No one has been arrested for this double murder. In July 2010, the Sialkot police supervised the lynching of two teenage boys, causing much furore and public sorrow. Despite video evidence detailing the entire incident, the case has yet to be tried or the perpetrators punished and Shahbaz Sharif’s promise to get justice for the boys’ mother has gone down as yet another sound bite the PR savvy chief minister routinely issues on such occasions. In July 2009, 40 Christians’ houses were burnt down in Gojra, Punjab after allegations of blasphemy were made against some of the residents. Gojra’s Christian community was attacked and several died in an attack blamed on Sipah-i-Sahaba. The Punjab administration has failed to bring anyone to justice for these murders, as is the case with the numerous attacks on Ahmadis that Punjab witnessed last year, also suspected to be the work of such extremists.

Unfortunately, it is not just complacency that has undermined law and order in Punjab — it is the PML-N’s ideological leanings towards extremist religious and sectarian outfits. In March last year, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif let slip his disappointment that the Taliban had chosen to carry out terrorist attacks in his province, given the common ideology they both have. Both Sanaullah and Sharif have shown not just their tolerance of these extremist organisations, they have even colluded with them for their own aims. Through political expediency and ideological affinity, they have aligned themselves with the devil — those who will use violence and barbarity to achieve their aims.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2011.

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  • Babar seeks Nawaz’s stance over murder

    LAHORE: Law Minister Babar Awan on Friday sought Nawaz Sharif’s policy statement over the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, saying the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief should clarify his party’s stance over the killing of the martyred Punjab governor.

    Talking to the media after a Quran Khawani held at the residence of Punjab Minister for Sports and Culture Dr Tanvirul Islam, he said that on the one hand the PML-N was condemning the killing of the governor while on the other PML-N Islamabad Lawyers’ Wing President Fazlur Rehman Khan Niazi garlanded the murderer of Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri. “Why did Fazlur Rehman Niazi present flowers to the assassin of Taseer? Is it the party policy of the PML-N?” he asked, adding that it was not the policy of Nawaz, but he must issue a policy statement to clear his party’s position. Babar, pointing at opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali in this regard, said that nothing could happen in the PML-N in Pothohar without the permission of Pothohar walay. He said that all this had made the PML-N’s position on the matter suspicious and it was direly needed that Punjab’s ruling party cleared its position as to whether they were on the killer’s side or they would stand with the patriotic people of the country. To a question about the deadline given by the PML-N to the government over the acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s charter of demands, Babar said that deadlines could not be given in politics, as there was no final word in politics. Separately, the Mehfil-e-Milad and Naat Khwani for Taseer was organised by the PPP and attended by Senior Punjab Minister Raja Riaz, provincial ministers Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Neelam Jabbar, Farooq Ghurki, Muhammad Ashraf Sohna and Haji Muhammad Ishaq, members Punjab Assembly and party leaders Sajida Mir, Faiza Malik, Talat Yaqoob, Hassan Murtaza, Amjad Mayo, Makhdoom Irtaza, Azizur Rehman Chan, Zikriya Butt, Sohail Malik and others. Babar elaborated the philosophy of life and death in the light of the poetry of Iqbal. He also stressed that Muslims should follow the examples of the holy Prophet (PBUH). Addressing the ceremony, Raja Riaz said he was feeling incomplete without Taseer, adding that all conspiracies against democracy would fail. He said that ultimately the elected people would take decisions of the country, adding that it was the responsibility of every person to guard the constitution and the PPP was fulfilling its responsibilities. Later, Babar offered prayers for Taseer. Meanwhile, the PPP Punjab president chaired a meeting of provincial party office-bearers to discuss the political situation in the province after the death of Taseer. During the meeting, they discussed at large the situation after the death of the PPP stalwart. Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, on the occasion, said that Taseer was a true jiyala and a void had been created after his death, which could not be filled. He, however, said about the future politics in the province and preparation for the upcoming local body elections that the PPP would work with more dedication and energy and win the Punjab local body polls to pay tribute to Taseer.
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\01\08\story_8-1-2011_pg7_17