India must save Pakistan
Pakistan is in need of help. India alone can provide the help—and will also benefit from this. Pakistan faces the danger of self-destruction if it fails to make amends with its folly of mounting the tiger of Islamic extremism. Look at the bizarre events that led to, and have followed, the assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab and a courageous voice of secularism, last week. Which civilised nation can have a blasphemy law of the kind that has disgraced Pakistan? Taseer was killed because, in an atmosphere of fear created by the forces of religious terrorism, he stuck his neck out to call it a "black law" and pleaded for presidential clemency for a poor Christian woman who has been sentenced to death under that law. Shamefully, not only have a large number of clerics justified his killing, but they, and a significant section of Pakistan's civil society, have also idolised his killer as a holy warrior.
A blizzard of bigotry is sweeping across Pakistan. This is evident from Taseer's assassination, the likelihood of more secular critics of the blasphemy law being killed in the months ahead, the sword of the death sentence hanging over the hapless Christian woman, and the many religiously inspired extra-judicial killings of non-Muslims and Muslims accused under the law. It is also evident from the long series of ghastly terrorist attacks on religious places and followers of minority communities, and also of Muslim communities deemed to have deviated from the path of "pure Islam". If only a partially Talibanised Pakistan can look so scary, a Pakistan under the complete control of the forces of religious terrorism—a distinct possibility—will undoubtedly pose a far graver threat to itself, to India, and to the world at large.
Before it is too late, India must devise, and assiduously work on a strategy to stabilise and save Pakistan. India must help Pakistan strengthen its democracy; make its generals subservient to the people's rule; and defeat the forces of Islamic extremism without wishing to break its unity or to erase its Muslim identity.
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