Do you know about the ‘haka’ or ‘hanka’ technique used in colonial India to hunt tigers? That’s exactly how the Punjab Governor and PPP’s central leader Salmaan Taseer was killed by the right wing and pseudo-liberal proxies and affiliates of Pakistan army.
For starters, the right-wing left-wing binary does not apply to the context of Pakistani politics and media. Similarly, the “Urdu press is conservative” and “English press is progressive” binary is equally misleading.
It is a fact that Pakistan’s almighty military establishment has its proxies and affiliates both in right wing and in the so called liberal class. (This article highlights that most of Pakistan’s liberals are lifestyle liberals instead of ideological or political liberals. https://lubpak.net/archives/61839). Therefore, the more appropriate binary in Pakistan’s context is pro-army vs pro-people.
Through an intricate network (Teen Jeem (3 Js): Jenerals, Judges and Journalists), Pakistan army maintains its stronghold on Pakistani media and politics.
Coming back to the original topic, in a haka, a herd of villagers (beating drums, making noises) and cattle from different directions force the tiger towards a small corner where it is easy to control and kill him.
Taseer took a dangerously bold and honest stance on Pakistan’s most sensitive and controversial anti-blasphemy laws terming such laws as Black Laws and a violation of fundamental human rights. This provided the right wing as well as liberal proxies and affiliates of Pakistan army with an excellent opportunity to use the haka technique to corner and hunt down yet another PPP leader after the previous murder of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
It was clear that without street-level support (through carefully planned and executed public awareness campaigns, open debates, reforms in the curricula and media, discussions in the parliament and courts), a public stance on the blasphemy law would endanger Taseer’s life. The haka masterminds clearly saw the opportunity not only to hunt down yet another central leader of a politically liberal party (PPP) but also thought of using this opportunity to gain at least two further goals, i.e., to reunite the majority Barelvi (Sufi) Muslim community with the more radical pro-Taliban Deobandi-Wahhabi community on a common agenda (the honour of the Prophet Muhammad); and to blame the victim, i.e., blame the PPP and President Zardari through the “PPP abandoned Taseer” discourse.
In his recent interview with Karan Thapar, Imran Khan pointed towards the danger of the same Haka when he refused to take a bold, clear stance against Lashkar-e-Taiba / Jamaatud-Dawa head Hafiz Saeed by citing the example of Mumtaz Hussain Deobandi aka Qadri (the brainwashed footsoldier of takfiri khawarij who killed Governor Taseer).
When Thapar asked him about militant groups and whether Khan would denounce them, he answered broadly in the affirmative. But Thapar is not the usually naïve and unabashedly sick-of-democracy Pakistani television anchor. He proceeded to ask Khan whether Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Daawa would be specifically mentioned. “Look, I’m living in Pakistan. Pakistan at the moment is the most polarised country in the world. A governor gets shot, his assassin becomes a hero. There’s no point in becoming a hero right now in this country where there’s no rule of law,” he said, referring to the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.(Source)
Taseer was much more brave and honest than Imran Khan and other pseudo-liberals around him. It was, therefore, not much difficult to trap him.
The twin-wings of the establishment’s proxies worked as follows: The right wing painted Taseer as the bad guy, a bad Muslim, by misrepresenting him as someone who was himself guilty of the blasphemy of the Prophet (Tauheen-e-Risalat). The liberal wing, instead of advising Taseer to exercise caution and care, dishonestly cheered, encouraged rather forced him to make extremely bold and dangerous moves and statements (e.g., his visit to Asia Bibi in the Shiekhupura prison and hurried announcement of her pardon, his description of anti-blasphemy law as black law, his bold, anti-Mullah anti-fanatics remarks in various interviews etc). Of course, what was at stake was Taseer’s own life and the interests of his political party and family. None of his fake liberal cheerers ever accompanied him to visit Aasia bibi or cared to visit her after Taseer’s murder. In fact none of them cared to offer protection or support to the poor prayer leader (Afzal Chishti) who led Taseer’s funeral despite numerous threats to his life from radical right-wing proxies of the ISI.
The selection of Mumtaz Qadri as Taseer’s killer was not a mere coincidence. He belonged to a stanuch Deobandi family of Rawalpindi’s Bara Khahu area, had been shifting his religious tendences from Deobandi to Qadri to Deobandi. Many of his mates in the police in fact knew in advance about his plan to kill Governor Taseer, and silently stood by while Qadri emptied the magazine of his AK-47 into Taseer’s body; as Taseer collapsed, Qadri took further time to reload the rifle and sprayed another round of 30 bullets. This all points towards the fact that Taseer’s murder was not an isolated act of a lone wolf (as was suggested by a haka member in Pakistan’s media). Qadri was carefully chosen for this task because the Qadri alias meant that his role in this murder could be used to implicate and malign Sunni Barelvi (Sufi) sect as opposed to more radical, pro-Taliban Deobandi or Wahhabi sect. Through Qadri’s selection (a violent Sunni Barelvi is a rarity or anomaly in Pakistan), the pro-Deobandi establishment hoped to unite the majority of anti-Taliban Sunni Barelvis with the pro-Taliban Deobandis and Wahhabis on the common platform of the honour of the holy Prophet. By keeping a low profile in the aftermath of Taseer’s murder, the PPP largely foiled at least this part of the haka plan.
Finally, the same very people who got Taseer killed resorted to blaming his own party. That was the second, more important aim of the haka. Numerous articles were written by the (fake liberal) haka members in Pakistani and international media to defame the elected government by blaming the very party (PPP) which had lost yet another of its central leaders within three years of Benazir’s murder. It was alleged that by not taking a forceful stance on the blasphemy law, the PPP and President Zardari had effectively abandoned Taseer. The critics dishonestly hid the fact that the PPP needed 2/3 majority in the parliament to amend the constitution and that it currently did not have a simple majority. Moreover, it was conveniently ignored that such sensitive legal amendment could not be achieved overnight. However, the critics were not interested in facts, they wanted an ongoing haka to hunt down yet another PPP leader, something which they subsequently achieved through the killing of another PPP leader, Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a few month after Taseer’s murder.
Postscript: What we are currently (in January 2012) witnessing in Husain Haqqani’s case seems to have at least some elements of a haka. Almost same set of people (flatterers and operatives) who steered Salmaan Taseer to his murder steered Husain Haqqani to the establishment’s trap on every stage, right from the conception of the memo to an unnecessary public reaction to Mansoor Ijaz’s article in the Financial Times, from unnecessary public focus on the memo to the mismanagement of the agency-inspired petition in the Supreme Court. Those who steered Haqqani to a counter-productive public confrontation with Mansoor Ijaz and then to a demand of independent probe into memo were a part of the haka. The aim was to trap Haqqani, which was at least partially achieved the moment he landed in Pakistan.