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The Caravan: Forfeiting the Future

Author: Manan Ahmed, The Caravan
February 1, 2011

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Manan Ahmed argues that violence over attempts to remove Pakistan's blasphemy laws reveal less about the crass “Islamisation” of the Pakistani public, and more about an entrenched political program that routinely marshals potent symbols against critical voices.

A column bearing the title Ki Muhammad se wafa tu nay appeared on 1 January in the Daily Jang, the largest Urdu newspaper in Pakistan. Written by Mushtaq Ahmed Qureshi, it was quite close, in tone and in content, to an array of writing in the Urdu press commenting on the country's blasphemy laws, which have attracted considerable international attention due to the case of Asiya Bibi, a Christian woman who has been imprisoned for a year and faces a death sentence for the crime of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Hewing close to the conventions of Urdu column-writing, Qureshi opened with the description of a social setting (a funeral) where some sober men were gathered, discussing the affairs of the day. One asked, why is the governor of Punjab giving speeches against khatm-e nabuvat (Finality of Prophethood)? Another, a maulana, replied that he did not know—but said he did know that whoever maintains that there is another prophet after Muhammad, or denies the prophethood of Muhammad, can be legally killed. It was a shame, Qureshi wrote, that even though Salmaan Taseer knew that he would die one day and be judged for his words, he was so careless. At the end of the column, Qureshi cited, with great praise, a couplet by the renowned Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal:

Ki Muhammad se wafa tu nay to hum teray hain/ Yeh Jahan chiz hay kiya, Loh o Qalam teray hain

Be faithful to Muhammad and I am yours/ This world is nothing, the Tablet and Pen are yours.

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