A Blasphemer Dies

The car bombing that killed 14 people and wounded three dozen others outside of the U.S. Consulate‘s Office in Karachi got most of the attention last week. But two days earlier, a little-known crime occurred that sheds light on the current state of chaos in Pakistan. An inmate shot and killed a fellow prisoner in Lahore, in central Pakistan, possibly with the help of a jail officer.

Muhammad Yousaf, a devout Muslim, was appealing his death sentence for blasphemy, when he was fired at six times and killed by Tariq Mota, a member of the banned extremist outfit Anjama-e-Sipahe Sahaba. Investigators believe that a jail officer provided Mota with the gun and had Yousaf walk by his cell as part of a setup. Yousaf’s crime: He pretended to show people Muhammed‘s shrine. Yousaf had recently visited the Moslem shrine of Muhammed in Saudi Arabia.

During his trial, Yousaf was labeled ”Kazab“ -- the liar -- by the press. Mota, after killing Yousaf, shouted, ”Allah-o-Akbar“ -- ”God is great“ -- and declared that he had done the deed to win eternal salvation.

The next day, the headline in a newspaper read: ”Yousaf Kazab Shown Ticket to Hell by Bravo Tariq.“

”I am proud of my son,“ one newspaper quoted the killer’s mother as saying. ”From this act he has washed all his sin.“

Welcome to Pakistan, the international community‘s frontline state in the war against terrorism. A country where free minds are condemned to death by rulers under the blasphemy law, which carries a mandatory death sentence if one person testifies that the accused made comments against the prophet Muhammad. It is a place where fanatics are provided weapons to hasten the execution of the damned, and go unnoticed. And if these acts are noticed, the press and public celebrate them as divine redemption.

This is the country where women are sentenced to death by stoning when they fail to prove a rape complaint.

Intolerance and bigotry dominate all of our institutions.

The bombing outside the consulate came on the heels of warnings that investigative agencies began receiving after the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The word was that Pakistan-based extremists had forged ties with al Qaeda and planned to attack Western targets in Pakistan. Until recently, however, little attention was paid to other Pakistani terrorist groups that share Osama bin Laden’s doctrinaire view of Islam and his hatred of the West. Many attended al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, or received arms and other support from bin Laden‘s cartel of terror.

The independent press -- a rare breed in a country like Pakistan -- came out with numerous reports about unholy alliances between al Qaeda and local radical outfits. Authorities, however, brushed aside these reports as a ”conspiracy to malign Pakistan and its intelligence service“ by foreign-inspired journalists. Two major radical Pakistani militant groups, Lashkar-e-Tayba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, were named in this connection.

So, the question becomes: What role is the ISI, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, playing in this game? Is it the proverbial ”hunt with the hounds and run with the hare“ policy?

The June 14 blast occurred just a few hundred meters away from where a bomb exploded May 8, killing 14 people, and less than 100 meters from the hotel where Daniel Pearl was last seen in the company of his alleged abductors.

Police initially said the bombing was the work of a woman driving a white van. The woman has been identified as a person named Aliya Warsi. Later police said the bomb had been planted in a car carrying four women and owned by Khanum Motor Training School. A remote device set off the bomb. According to this theory, the terrorists knew what route the car would take. The FBI has joined the investigation, and police sources say it is considering the possibility of either a suicide bomber or a remote device. One police source confided that movie cameras on the top of the consulate building have taken shots of the blast. However, local investigative agencies have not been shown the videotape because the FBI does not trust them.

On the evening of the blast, media groups received a handwritten note from a hitherto unknown group calling itself Al-Qanoon -- ”the law“ -- claiming responsibility for the attack. ”So far we have not been able to establish the presence of any such group. It could be possible that some other group might be using a fake name to misguide the investigators,“ said Mukhtar Sheikh, a retired military officer now serving as home secretary in the province of Sindh.

What surprises me is not how the authorities are only half-heartedly dealing with the menace of terrorism, but how ordinary people and the local press see it. The special editions of Pakistani papers could not hide their delight in choosing words to describe the ghastly act outside the consulate. ”Another Message From Mujahideen to America,“ was the headline in one newspaper. ”Either run out of Pakistan or be prepared for more.“

Every day the Daily Ummat, perhaps Karachi‘s second most circulated Urdu-language daily, prints on its front page a photo of Osama bin Laden with a quote from one of his interviews: ”It is the duty of every Muslim to kill Jews and Americans wherever he [finds] them,“ the message reads one day. And ”Only the jihad is the cure of all problems that Muslims are facing today“ appears the next.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >