I get a lot fewer emails from readers than I used to, primarily (I think) due to Twitter. But I did get one a couple days ago, and I thought it was worthy of sharing with our other readers. This is from Hamza in Lahore.
I’m a fairly regular reader of your blog, and in the aftermath of the Governor’s assassination my feelings and reaction were somewhat like yours, with the one distinction being that I am presently in Lahore, and therefore have had to more carefully calibrate my frustration, disgust, disappointment, fear and anger, even in front of my parents, who are decidedly less liberal than I am.
The reason I am writing to you is because I wish to relate to you my experience from this morning. I normally sleep in on Saturday mornings, but today I woke up early for something I had wanted to do for weeks. I visited Salman Taseer’s grave in Cavalry Ground. It is an unmarked “kachi” grave insofar as there is no tombstone at its head, or a garish monument of marble. The family may just not have had time to arrange for something more permanent. There is, however, a Pakistani flag hoisted near the head on a ten-foot pole. The wreaths were so numerous there was a pile of them bigger than the grave itself next to the grave. The only ones laid out on the grave itself were from the Chief of Army Staff, some others from high-ranking army personnel (of the sort they lay down ceremoniously at, say, Jinnah’s grave on important occasions) and some unmarked bouquets. The only other people in the graveyard at the time were five policemen who were ostensibly on guard some fifty yards from the grave, and an elderly couple that had just paid their respects at his grave and were leaving as I arrived. If you’re wondering how I found it, the flag and the police guard were pretty obvious location markers; the wreaths marked the actual spot.I sat there for about ten minutes on a bench close by, coming close to crying. For the most part I thought about the finality of death, and how one of the more influential and powerful men this country knew would lie beneath the dust a few feet from me forever. I thought about how Salman Taseer died for something I believed in. I looked at the flag as it fluttered in the morning breeze, and the next two stunted thoughts did not fully form in my mind till I had left the graveyard and was halfway back home. The first was a plea to my God – I’m not big on organized religion, but I do believe there’s a God up there – to let Salman Taseer into Paradise: anything less in my view would be the biggest travesty within the context of how I view divine justice. The second was a far more discomforting thought: my mind was drawing a blank on what to do in the aftermath of this horrendous event. I consider myself a liberal, my brother considers himself a liberal, and that already is a big departure from our upbringing in a fairly religious – religious, not conservative – family where us brothers are pretty much the only people on this side of the “divide”. My undergraduate education in the US (I’m on leave this year) has been focused on engineering, which seems like such a sack of shit now. What could I possibly do to further the liberal cause in Pakistan with a degree in Electrical Engineering? Teach people digital signal processing?
I can relate to the feeling you will no doubt have experienced over the last several days of sitting helpless halfway round the world, not being on the ground and seeing things transpire as they have here. That is one of the reasons I am writing to you, because I feel it is important for someone like yourself who opines on Pakistan, and is read by overseas Pakistanis, to remember that Salman Taseer’s death is not just a bunch of words on a news website or your own reaction to it. It is a grave with a father in it. It is a grave with a husband, a businessman, a governor, a liberal and a hero in it. And right now, those of us who have been deemed worthy of the same fate have no coherent approach to take on the madmen who would threaten us so. In the words of Twitter user pishipotty, “Fuck this shit. I will be more openly liberal and more vocal against the blasphemy law than I’ve ever been before.” I really wish we could all take those words to heart. I know I certainly have swung farther “left” over the last few weeks, and it would be perhaps interesting for you to see if more liberals have, and whether it could amount to anything.