Forget Aasia Bibi

This is not a piece about finding justice for Aasia Bibi. God knows it would be very costly if that were so. Aasia Bibi has indirectly cost Pakistan a brilliant governor in Salmaan Taseer and a valorous minority’s minister in Shahbaz Bhatti. This is a piece that argues the opposite: that we give up on her altogether.
Here is why this is a good idea. First, it is a lost cause. If people think Ebola is fatal, they do not really know how lethal a blasphemy accusation is. It can start with something benign. Aasia Bibi’s started with her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She should not have asked to drink water in the same cup that others would consequently deem unclean. This is what instigated a fight between domestic but dangerous women, and what eventually instigated the accusation that she had blasphemed. Now what she did was for a drink of water and there is little one can do to save her from the wrath of those whom she offended. The law is not on her side nor is it on the side of those who do benign, mundane things that might offend some Muslims.
Secondly, every time someone dies saving her, it is a fatal blow to the anaemic community of liberals saving themselves like moss on a drying swamp. There is very little moss to go around. Some get shot and others have fake lists going around on social media accusing them of trading hand-outs for integrity. Sooner or later the inevitable famine pervades. Both Salmaan Taseer’s and Shahbaz Bhatti’s murders were a blow but the retreats that were made by their friends and the parties they belonged to put our enemies to shame. So, in the end, the retreat is more painful to endure than the rallying cause for justice. Let us stay with the morsels of the weak perception that things are not that bad for minorities.
Third, let us drop it because, with a revival of activism for Aasia Bibi’s case, we will greatly disturb the killers of the people trying to protect her. The killers will get a mixed message and it will dilute the positivity that they felt when they were garlanded by Pakistan’s lawyers’ community for their vigilantism and coldblooded murder. We certainly do not want to confuse them by suggesting that there is a fringe group that strongly disagrees with their methods of protest.
The narrative that a woman is going to face the gallows for getting into a disagreement with Muslims, though true, cannot be conducive to creating a dialogue. For a dialogue to take place in Pakistan, only one party needs to have all the weight on its side, and that side cannot be with those who fail the dua-e-kunoot (prayer of piety) acid test. The Aasia Bibi story is also a blow to the cause of women. It has created the notion that women are not beyond the reproach of the law that regulates blasphemy. If anything, they are more vulnerable. If that is the case, and seemingly it is, then there is no real value in repeating this, except that it would successfully keep women in their shell perpetually.
They will not be the only ones turning inwards. The Christians and other minorities will figure out that it is more rewarding to be in a permanent state of subservience. With a profound expertise in walking on eggshells they can pretty much agree to live on the dictate of those for whom the laws work to protect. So is it not better for them to not be reminded of a poster girl of this disempowered status?
Also, the government becomes more callous because not acting out in her favour did not bring them any retribution from its own citizens or foreign governments who consider this purely Pakistan’s problem. It also emboldens them to never ever listen to petitions, especially those like the kind they had for Aasia Bibi that gathered 400,000 signatures from the citizens of over 100 countries. If she goes to her death for a crime that is so politically hyped, so be it. It is not just a battle that has many challenges but is also one that requires optimism and a trust in the people of Pakistan to make difficult choices and just choices. Who has that kind of delusion in times like these?

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