Hope After Shahbaz Bhatti
Image Credit: Salmaan Taseer

Hope After Shahbaz Bhatti

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Pakistan might have eventually saved itself from humiliation by defeating Canada in a World Cup cricket match yesterday (it teetered on the edge of a huge upset after being bowled out by cricketing greenhorn Canadians).  But such a win can do little to improve the international image of such the strife-torn country.

The recent assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minority affairs minister and the only Christian in the cabinet, has shown once again how incredibly dangerous and life threatening it can be to speak your mind in Pakistan.

Bhatti was an active voice in the debate over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and it’s frightening and tragic that someone can be murdered for offering an alternative view.  But I like to think that however depressing this state of affairs is, there are at least a few rays of hope.

For example, on a few of the news bulletins in India following Bhatti's assassination, it has been heartening to hear the eloquent and passionate Shehrbano Taseer speak out against the murder of yet another liberal voice in Pakistan. Shehrbano Taseer is the daughter of murdered Punjab Gov. Salmaan Tasser. And, any way you look at it, she isn't your average Pakistani.

Shehrbano belongs to the miniscule minority in the country that enjoys money, power and privilege to the point where, on the surface at least, there seemed little before her father’s death to trouble her. And yet despite the kind of detachment you might expect from her upbringing, Shehrbano and another fiery Pakistani woman, Fatima Bhutto (the estranged niece of Benazir Bhutto) are exactly the kind of inspiration that Pakistan needs right now.

The deaths of their relatives have underscored how status is no guarantee of safety from those wanting to quash independent voices. This makes their determination to speak out and to try to encourage a real debate in the country all the more inspiring. It might end up changing little, but at least it offers some hope.

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