Use of Blasphemy Law for Murder in Pakistan

Who killed Murtaza Malik?

By Khaled Ahmed, Urdu Press Review

Murtaza Malik’s ability as an orator never earned him the respect he deserved. He is still a popular speaker on Islamic TV channels. His money was made in Saudi Arabia and later by selling Islamic books to the army. Why didn’t he earn respect and why was he killed quite needlessly?

Many men of religion fell during Pakistan’s decade of jihad and extremism. One such was Murtaza Malik of Lahore, an extremely successful orator on TV, whose dramatic style of preaching was popular. For some reason his ability as a scholar of Islam never earned him the respect he deserved. He controlled two institutions of religious learning and was well provided for through sales of books, put together by him, to the army. He was also an adviser to Imran Khan when Murtaza Malik lived in Zaman Park.

According to Nawa-e-Waqt (November 23, 2004) the men who killed Lahore’s renowned but controversial religious scholar Dr Ghulam Murtaza Malik in 2002 were arrested by the police during a chance stop-and-search operation. The two were violent criminals produced in the past years by a mixing of jihad with crime. In the decade of the 1990s jihad brought more weapons into the underworld and gave rise to new brands of armed robbery. Youths taking to it found it easier to kill and stick around without witnesses rather than steal and flee as they used to do in old days. The arrested dacoits admitted that Dr Hafeez Shahid of Pattoki, a leader of Sunni Tehreek, had told them to kill two religious scholars because they were ‘insulters’ of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They lured a rather greedy Dr Malik out of his house on the promise that they would gift a piece of land to him and shot him dead on a deserted road. They also killed another religious scholar Prof Ataur Rehman Saqib the same year for the same ‘offence’.

Both the killers turned out to be high-school dropouts who found killing and stealing an easier way of life. Their conscience was put at rest by the realisation that they were also killing in the name of Islam — in this case to protect the divine reputation of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The man who put them up to it, Dr Hafeez Shahid, ran a religious party called Sunni Tehreek. When it hounded non-Muslims in Gujranwala, using the Blasphemy Law, it was eulogised and the government did nothing against it. But then its religious leader thought that because some fellow-ulema were not toeing his line he could get rid of them through hired killers. Now the police is looking for Dr Shahid. He may have killed many more whose deaths we have been blaming on India and the United States. The truth however is quite unsavoury as it gradually comes to light. Murtaza Malik was a rich man because of contacts with the GHQ where an Islamist general who has recently retired patronised him. So big was the sale of his books to the army that he had reportedly started up his own paper-making factory. Malik was PTV’s most patronised cleric because of the GHQ connection. Now his son Bilal is on PTV and has his father’s distinctive style.

Writing in Jang (November 17, 2004) Nazir Naji stated that in the past Pakistani society was more free. People used to preach Islam but there was more emphasis on example than on coercion. Today any kind of celebration is banned. We cannot celebrate the new year, we cannot celebrate weddings if we serve food; and singing which used to be so common in the past is now disapproved. Pretty dresses for women are now frowned at. Anglo-Indian ladies who once plied their bicycles freely in Lahore have long migrated out of Pakistan. Restaurants where the youth of Lahore used to enjoy their evenings are nowhere in sight. Pakistani films show goonda-gardi and Kalashnikov culture instead of romance. Worshippers at mosques are no longer safe. Even different dresses for the different sects have been made obligatory in some communities. Pakistani society is internally riven with narrow-mindedness.

If we lost our freedom it should have been for a good cause. One cause could be religious scholarship. The clergy was given a chance to show what they could do, but no one has written a single respectable book since late Maulana Maududi wrote his famous exegesis Tafheem al Quran. Qazi Hussain Ahmed says he is mot a qualified cleric, so he is excused; but Maulana Fazlur Rehman has not shown any talent apart from issuing fatwas for killing nationals of a state that our youth cannot take on. Even in fatwas of death there should be some creativity involved. They are crude and difficult to carry out. Of course we have killed Americans, most of them innocent. But we have lost some very powerful clerics too. And that mostly to sectarian violence. The only great literature produced has been in the sectarian underground which arouses us to kill.

Daily Jang (November 19, 2004) reported that Sindh chief minister Arbab Raheem had told 106 policemen suspended for corruption that they would be reinstated if they did two months of Islamic moral training with the Tablighi Jamaat in Lahore. On his orders bribe-taking policemen were sent on a Tablighi daura during Ramazan for ten days after which they demanded to be reinstated, but the chief minister insisted on more moral training. He has charged the imam of Yusuf Masjid in Sukkur to take them in for training and then give him report that they had forever abandoned the practice of taking graft before they would be again allowed to work as policemen. Meanwhile Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Raiwind Lahore was expected to host the Punjab governor and JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman. In the past president of Pakistan Leghari attended the gathering.

The police is already completely sold to jihadi terrorism which is Deobandi-Wahhabi. And Tablighi Jamaat is a Deobandi mother organisation. The man who blew up the mosque in Sindh Madrassa in 2004 was a policeman. And the 2003 attempt on the life of the president was made by a Deobandi jihadi militia which was aided by an inspector of police. At least one act of terrorism in Balochistan, too, was committed with the help of police officers. The Sindh chief minister who tends to deny honour killing and is against any liberal law against it, should be careful what he puts his police through. The idea of Tabligh is not a good one.

Daily Khabrain (November 22, 2004) published reaction to federal education minister General (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi that Pakistan’s history books should contain chapters on Asoka and Chandra Gupta Mauriya. Teachers and students in Lahore said if this was done they would come out and hold protest rallies. One religious leader said that Islamic culture was being destroyed while another intellectual said that it was no use teaching Asoka in Pakistan. Islami Jamiat Tulaba said such additions to the course would be resisted, while Imamia Students said they would not tolerate it.

Brainwash speaks against the proposal to end brainwash in favour of an understanding of history. A lesson on Asoka would lessen prejudice and a lessening of prejudice will weaken the edifice of ideology. What a retired general is proposing today, a retired general of a decade ago would not have been found dead proposing. *

Courtesy: Daily Times

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