Like many other fellow columnists, I had also penned a piece of condemnation and condolence when Saleem Shahzad was callously murdered under mysterious circumstances. We are, however, all busy people. Now is an urgent meeting. Tomorrow is an important conference. Then there is a splendid wedding ceremony. Entertaining family and friends in a newly opened restaurant is also a priority. Many of us did express concerns over the brutal murder of Saleem but then we slipped back into our extremely busy routines of life.
Acting upon the urge to be truthful in a society where hypocrisy is institutionalised and where national mythology reigns supreme is like stepping into a den of hungry snakes. Raza! If you wanted to play it safe you should have preferred doing some kind of ‘aalim’ or ‘qutub’ talk show where you would have won accolades by selling faith-coated sweets to keen buyers. If that did not suit your taste, well you might have then considered providing our idle and superstition-prone elite with a programme on star signs or Tarot cards and by making callers happy with predictions about their future. You chose to create and promote a discourse of new thinking. New discourse is never liked by those who are living comfortably in a given status quo. Who fired at you we may not know for certain as yet, but why they attacked you is not difficult to figure out. Not only did they wish to silence a clear headed voice of rationality but also wanted to give a clear message to all those who questioned the authority of the guardians of the status quo.
I recently watched this movie, The Rise of Evil, which is a Canadian two-part miniseries on Hitler. Fritz Gerlich, a German journalist and opponent of the Nazi party, figures prominently in the movie. When his wife alerts him to looming danger, the journalist-cum-historian expresses his inability to disown his struggle as not resisting madness amounted to communal suicide. Towards the end of the movie, Fritz is arrested and put in the Dachau concentration camp. His wife is shown receiving his bloodstained glasses in the packet delivered to her by the Nazi authorities. The movie then displays the quote often attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The actual quote by Burke on which this is based is: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Saleem Shahzad, Wali Babar and Musa Khan fell one by one. Bad men are highly organised, very resourceful and extremely institutionalised. If our good men do not form an association, they will fall one by one.
Raza Rumi narrowly escaped becoming another martyr on this list of solo warriors. In a country where neither a serving governor nor a former prime minister are safe from the evil designs of motivated and organised assailants, I do not know how any man with some sense of dignity can live in peace. The governments in Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tell us that they are negotiating peace with the Taliban. We wanted to win the T20 cricket tournament with the strength of communal prayers alone. Perhaps we also want to bring peace and tranquillity to our country by praying for peace.
In the media, the assassination attempt on Raza Rumi in broad daylight was eclipsed by the Musharraf trial. When, soon after Musharraf’s appearance in the special court, rumours of a special plane from the Gulf began making the rounds, I felt the doctrine of necessity had returned from its grave. Luckily, the rumour died young and Musharraf remains incarcerated inside a military hospital. However, what irks me most is the constant campaign of trivialising the offence of high treason. On a recent television talk show I was stunned by the intellectual dishonesty of a couple of prominent senior lawyers when I heard them arguing that Musharraf’s offence was merely “unconstitutionality” and not “treason”. I wish the learned advocates had read my piece on this topic where I had quoted many constitutional and statutory provisions in other countries whereby any move to dislodge a government or subvert the constitution was considered high treason. Every unconstitutional move does not necessarily result in treason proceedings. In the US’s constitution, the president has a veto power so that if he feels that any law passed by the Congress is unconstitutional he can veto it. Similarly, the Supreme Court was empowered to declare any law or executive action void through judicial review if it was found to be against the constitution. Subverting the constitution is, therefore, totally different from ‘acting unconstitutionally’. Regular coups have been responsible for weak democratic systems in developing countries. Pakistan’s political system has also suffered at the hands of ambitious adventurists. Hence, Article 6 was introduced by the founding fathers of the 1973 constitution to discourage any military takeovers. It is important that we do not allow the trivialising of Musharraf’s offence. He is charged with the offence of high treason under Article 6 and we should not let anyone mellow down the severity of this offence.
Saleem Shahzad and Raza Rumi did not put their lives on the line to see the Taliban getting amnesty and an accused of high treason receiving special treatment from the state. I hope we do not disappoint them.