On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had announced that the Government of India has decided that Aatish Taseer is ineligible for an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card after it was discovered that he had failed to disclose the fact that his father was a Pakistani. His OCI card was revoked soon afterwards.
The government’s actions are clearly based on a firm legal foundation as section 7A(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 specifically states that if any person or either of their parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country as notified by the government, such persons would not be eligible for an OCI card.
Aatish Taseer’s father was not only a Pakistani but a very prominent one at that. Salman Taseer, his father, was the Governor of Punjab when he was assassinated in 2011 for his ‘liberal’ views on Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case. Thus, despite the significant amount of outrage by liberals on Twitter, the only real controversy here is how Aatish Taseer managed to acquire OCI in the first place. Given Aatish Taseer’s personal ideological inclinations, the events that led to Salman Taseer’s assassination are worthy of greater analysis.
Salman Taseer’s defence of Asia Bibi
The manner in which he was assassinated and the reasons for it does demonstrate in elaborate detail the Jihadist nature of the Pakistani state. Salman Taseer was murdered because he believed a hapless Christian woman should not be executed for alleged blasphemy. He believed that the woman is innocent of the charge and came out strongly in her support in public.
In a press conference that he held following her conviction by the Court, Salman Taseer began with the words, “I want to begin with the name of Allah who is Rehman and Rahim.” The press conference was conducted after he met with Asia Bibi. He said that he had appealed to the then President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon her sentence. He further argued that such laws did not exist under ‘Qayad-e-Azam’ Jinnah’s time and the sentence was against the principles he stood for.
Salman Taseer further appealed to Islamic principles to argue in Asia Bibi’s defence. He also argued that he had studied the case personally and found that Asia Bibi was a poor Christian woman and the sentence against her was a crime against humanity. He also said that he hoped that Zardari would issue a Presidential pardon. He further stated that the conviction would not be overturned but he only appealed for the punishment to be pardoned.
Later, Salman Taseer told CNN that President Zardari had assured him that Asia Bibi would be pardoned. “What basically he’s made it clear is that she’s not going to be a victim of this law,” he told CNN International’s “Connect the World” program. “I mean, he’s a liberal, modern-minded president and he’s not going to see a poor woman like this targeted and executed. … It’s just not going to happen,” Taseer said. “If the High Court suspends the sentence and gives her bail then that is fine. We’ll see that, and if that doesn’t happen, then the president will pardon her,” he added.
Salman Taseer’s Assassination and Consequences
Not too long after, six weeks to be precise, on the 4th of January, 2011, Salman Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri for his position on Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The assassination instantly turned Qadri into a hero, as one would expect from a Jihadist state. He was showered with rose petals as he was dragged into the Court. “Death is acceptable for Muhammad’s slave,” his many supporters chanted.
Qadri had significant support from the Pakistani masses. The ordinary citizens of Pakistan were baying for Asia Bibi’s blood. Some offered rewards for anyone who could summon the courage to murder her, others wondered why she hadn’t been murdered yet. Others wept with joy when the Pakistani court awarded her the death sentence, the first woman to receive the death penalty in the country. One Maulvi said, “We had been worried the court would award a lesser sentence. So the entire village celebrated.”
It is under these circumstances that Salman Taseer summoned the courage to stand by Asia Bibi. Conventional wisdom dictates that it was only to be expected that he would pay a heavy price for his stance given the nature of the Jihadist state of Pakistan and its people, however, not too many people would have expected that he would have to pay for it with his life. Nevertheless, Taseer was one of the few politicians who could summon the courage to stand beside Asia Bibi and following his assassination, everyone who may have inclined to speak up resigned themselves to their fate.
The Similarities between Indian and Pakistani ‘Liberals’
Salman Taseer, through his defence, did highlight the fact that despite his citizenship, there were stark similarities between an Indian liberal his or her Pakistani counterpart. Like an Indian liberal, Taseer appealed to Islamic sensibilities and Jinnah in order to convince the citizenry to desist from bigotry. This is a tactic regularly used by Indian liberals as well. This is in stark contrast adopted by them towards Hinduism where everything wrong with Hindu society is blamed on Hindu ethos.
For instance, Salman Taseer appealed to Islamic principles and Jinnah to convince the Pakistani masses that Asia Bibi should not be executed. As per Islamic law, however, Asia Bibi did deserve death for the ‘crime’ she allegedly committed. And as for Jinnah, he actually appeared in court to defend Ilm-ud-Deen who murdered the publisher of the book Rangila Rasool in pre-independent India. He was subsequently executed after conviction. Therefore, quite clearly, the principles of the person Salman Taseer’s appeal was based on was deeply corrupted.
According to the liberal worldview, there’s nothing wrong with Islam and its heroes such as Jinnah and the hatred that rules the hearts of Muslims is primarily due to the fact they haven’t been able to live up to the lofty ideals of their religion and heroes. Conversely, every crime or discriminatory attitudes that Hindus might have is precisely due to the fact that Hinduism is corrupt and irredeemable. In this, there’s not much difference between a Pakistani liberal and an Indian liberal.
The Problem with the Liberal Worldview
However, Salman Taseer’s argument was entirely understandable and truth be told, rational, given the fact that he was living in an Islamic state. There were certain restrictions he had to operate under and even then, he had to demonstrate a great amount of courage to vouch for Asia Bibi. Even then, he had to forfeit his life for his stand. Indian liberals do not suffer from any such restrictions and yet, they approach the same tactic. One wonders why that is so.
Liberals, Indians or Pakistanis, fail to realize that there’s an urgent need for reform of the foundation structure of Muslim society. The principles they are appealing to are obviously at odds with the foundation of Muslim society. Therefore, if they continue using the same tactic as they always have and continue to do so, the reformation of Muslim society is impossible.
Pakistan, of course, doesn’t have any chance of reform now and since then, the mask, if ever there was such a thing, has fallen off. It is now governed by Jihadists who do not even pretend to be anything otherwise. However, liberals in both countries continue to live in an alternate universe with no basis in reality.
Aatish Taseer’s eloquent words about his father
In this argument, Aatish Taseer’s own words on the assassination of his father highlight the problems with the liberal worldview. In a beautifully worded article for The Telegraph that eloquently captures his feelings about his deceased father, which I do recommend reading in its entirety, the junior Taseer’s words perfectly elucidate where liberals are going wrong, although it wasn’t perhaps the objective of the article.
He wrote, “What my father could never say was what I suspect he really felt: “The very idea of blasphemy law is primitive; no woman, in any humane society, should die for what she says and thinks.” And when finally my father sought the repeal of the laws that had condemned her, the laws that had become an instrument of oppression in the hands of a majority against its minority, he could not say that the source of the laws, the faith, had no place in a modern society; he had to find a way to make people believe that the religion had been distorted, even though the religion – in the way that only these Books can be – as clear as day about what was meant.”
He concluded his article with the heartbreaking words, “And so, though I believe, as deeply as I have ever believed anything, that my father joins that sad procession of martyrs – every day a thinner line – standing between him and his country’s descent into fear and nihilism, I also know that unless Pakistan finds a way to turn its back on Islam in the public sphere, the memory of the late governor of Punjab will fade. And where one day there might have been a street named after him, there will be one named after Malik Mumtaz Qadri, my father’s boy-assassin.”
Aatish Taseer: A Changed Man
Quite obviously, Aatish Taseer has changed considerably since then. While he may have had accurate perceptions about reality once upon a time, he has now obviously lost sight of it. For instance, in the aftermath of Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder, he argued that Indian Muslims should organize with not peace in their minds. He appears to have forgotten that when Radical Muslims organize on such troubling foundations, the consequence is the fate of Kamlesh Tiwari and his father.
Aatish Taseer appears to have lost sight of the fact that when Radical Muslims organize explicitly on the basis of their Muslim identity alone, Pakistan is what we get, a country that he himself doesn’t appear to be too fond of. Something has changed within him since the time he penned that thoughtful article. One can only speculate about the reasons behind the change but considering the fact that he has been reduced to being a caricature of the typical Indian liberal, complete with an unhealthy obsession with Gau Mutra. The rhetoric that he has employed during online arguments, where he has used Gau Mutra as a slur abundantly, reminds one of the Pulwama terrorists who peddled the same morbid hatred against Hindus.
One possible reason could be the fact that he is himself a ‘Murtad’ (apostate), a ‘crime’ that is punishable by death as per wide sections of the Islamic world. In addition to that, he is a homosexual man, homosexuality is also considered a crime by Islamic states. Thus, after Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder for alleged blasphemy, it is only natural for Taseer to feel fearful enough to demonstrate that he ought to compensate for his personal choices, which are not Shariah-compliant, by going out of his to demonstrate that he carries the same hatred in his heart towards Hindus that Jihadists carry. On a side note, ‘hardcore communist atheist’ Umar Khalid, too, bowed meekly before the prophet of Islam after Kamlesh Tiwari’s murder.