Bilawal’s speech in London at the memorial for Salmaan Taseer was a much needed affirmation of the principles and values that were envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It was Jinnah’s vision that saw the founding of our great nation, a fact that came against the objections of the same people who today celebrate the murder of an innocent man.
I’ve watched the video of Bilawal’s speech several times, and each time it fills my eyes with tears and my heart with a yearning for justice – not only for Salmaan Taseer and his family but for everyone who is abused and threatened for speaking their minds.
Bilawal’s speech helped me know that, as I wrote earlier this week, I’m not the crazy one and I’m not alone. But, as I also wrote, we need to expand our discussion beyond blasphemy laws and address the issues that result in such tragedies.
I have also been watching the way that America is dealing with its own tragedy of the attempted assassination of one of its own politicians only a few days after Salmaan Taseer’s murder.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave a speech in honour of those killed in America last week, and his speech speaks not only to their own tragedy but to ours as well.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
When I read those words, it was like he was speaking about my Pakistan. This is exactly what we need also. We need more hope and encouragement, and less anger and hatred. We need to stop only saying bhai and start actually acting like brothers. Yes I disagree with the blasphemy laws. But we need to find a way to come together as a nation and focus on our commonalities instead of our differences.
I agree 100% with Bilawal’s statment that ‘Democracy is the best revenge’. But democracy requires a united people. That is why tyrants and dictators have always used the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. That is why certain people are organizing street protests and making threats against lawmakers. Extremists threaten the nation with anarchy, and then they go into the streets to prove it.
But we cannot be hostages to the threats of extremists. There may have been 30,000 people who protested to defend the blasphemy laws, but there are 180 million Pakistanis who did not show up to their rally. Changing the blasphemy laws – or any laws – is not going to happen quickly. But before we can do anything, before we are going to see any progress, first we must “pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds”.