“Heroism is not the measure of how gloriously one fights and dies; rather, it is the value of the deeds and events which drove the person to their final end.”
A year has passed us by, and much has changed.
I don’t want to dwell too much on history, for much will be written about that today, capturing the bravery and martyrdom of Salmaan Taseer.
I rather want to focus on his legacy. The legacy which many seem to forget in favour of the more sensationalist diatribes that help get more hits, more clicks and more comments, particularly when the monologue gets sidetracked (on purpose) to focus more on Islam, Qadri, the black law and the pivot of it all: Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman who was jailed for allegedly blaspheming against the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH).
No, my focus is on the here and now.
On January 4, 2011, after that fateful moment, Pakistan woke up. It may have woken up in shock, like someone after a nightmare at 4 am, cold sweat dripping down their necks, but it woke up nonetheless.
You see, up until that moment everything related to minority issues and persecution was just a by-line. The news would once in a while show a new report here, a quote from a politician there, and that was it. Even poor Asia Bibi was sidelined, apart from a few months before Taseer’s assassination, when him and Sherry Rehman were more vocal in their support for her.
Enter the assassination, followed by Sherry’s own quieter stance, and Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination some time later.
Suddenly, the rafters were flooded, the media up in arms and the general public finally no longer sitting on the fence. You were either vocally abhorring the blasphemy law, Asia Bibi’s detention, Taseer’s assassination and the state of minorities in Pakistan or you were waiting in line to shower Qadri with more rose petals.
The lines had finally been drawn.
Things have changed, whether we admit to it or not. Sure, we still aren’t out on the streets protesting in the thousands against Qadri or demanding Asia Bibi’s release. We aren’t bombarding the courts or the government with requests for leniency or release. We aren’t even coming out in force demanding the media in Pakistan cover this issue. All of the above has more to do with the liberal stance of voice over violence than mere complacency.
We ARE however very aware of the situation now. The media’s coverage of minority issues is now a daily feature, with every day bringing to light a new persecution, shedding new light over issues long forgotten.
If one reads the comments section of most major news portals in Pakistan, one feels a sense of joy that the youth of Pakistan are showing a rarely seen desire for justice and for the support of Taseer’s efforts to provide a voice for the persecuted. It begs a round of applause for those in the new generation who are proving to have more integrity flowing through their veins than those who are meant to teach them integrity in the first place. While the older folk go about sipping their teas and nodding their beards to the whispers of Qadri’s ghairat, the youth are thumping their chests at a new dawn of understanding and reconciliation.
Shahbaz Bhatti was further a victim of the brutality of some who use a few verses to turn what was one man’s guidance into a divine mandate, and closely following his assassination was the abduction of Taseer’s son, Shahbaz. All of us continue to pray for his safe return. Let no one be fooled by this blog of mine that I may be making light of such a henious crime. I am not, I continue to pray for Shahbaz’s safety. However I owe it to Mr. Taseer as a minority myself to give him the ode he deserves.
I would never have been active on Twitter if it wasn’t for Mr. Taseer. My voice would have been lost in the stream of the mundane, but his selfless act made me realise I am here on earth for a greater purpose. I have a voice. How I use it is what I learnt from him.
Pakistan is awake again. And we have only one man to thank for this. One man who woke us all up in his life and in his death.
Rest in peace, Salmaan Taseer. Pakistan is poorer for losing you. But at the same time, it is richer, because your legacy will reap a future of harmony. This, I truly believe.