New Delhi, Mar 1: The hanging of Mumtaz Qadri in Pakistan raises one very important question. Is the narrative about terrorism in Pakistan shifting for the better?
Mumtaz Qadri, a former police officer who in 2011 assassinated Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province. He was hanged recently in Pakistan.
Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South and Southeast Asia Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington following the assassination of Taseer who had questioned blasphemy laws a Harvard University analysis of social media's response in Pakistan to the Taseer assassination documented how many new Facebook pages were created to champion Qadri's act (one site registered over 2,000 likes early on).
Many users urged each other to use Qadri's face as their profile picture.
Read more: Salman Taseer's killer Qadri hanged to death
Qadri continued to enjoy the support of numerous religious conservatives as well as lawyers to the day he died. After word of his fate became known, spontaneous protests sprung up around Pakistan to condemn his execution, Kugelman tells OneIndia.
Is the narrative in Pakistan changing?
Kugelam also writes in the Diplomat that hanging of Qadri is no small matter. In effect, the Pakistani state hanged a man who was revered by the radicalized elements of society.
Pakistan's decision to execute Qadri, however, does not come in isolation. It comes on the heels of several other legal decisions that suggest the state is prepared to push back against religious extremists.
In October, when Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld Qadri's conviction, it also stated that blasphemy laws are not beyond criticism.
In recent weeks, the Punjab provincial government-led by the same party that runs the federal government-banned a hardline Islamist group, Tablighi Jamaat, from preaching in educational institutions (a prime venue for recruitment). And in recent days, the Punjab legislature unanimously passed a landmark bill that protects women's rights.
It suggests that times are changing in Pakistan. This was a message I heard often and emphatically during a trip to the country several weeks ago. In Islamabad and Lahore, people continued to worry in a big way about the threat of terror, but there was a noticeable energy and optimism in the air.
The state is crafting new narratives against extremism, I was assured. It can't happen overnight, but it is nonetheless happening, slowly but surely, Kugelman also writes.
The bottom line:
Furthermore, bottom-line realities about extremism in Pakistan remain in place. Little has been done to combat extremist ideologies and violence that target areas across Pakistan's borders.
Quite simply, terror groups that do not target the Pakistani state-from the Haqqani Network to Lashkar-e-Taiba-are not being targeted by the Pakistani state. Mumtaz Qadri, who directed his ire at Pakistani domestic laws and a provincial governor, targeted the Pakistani state, not India or Afghanistan.
This distinction is not surprising, given that the Pakistani state continues to espouse positions deeply critical of its neighbors.
The large number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan-always a delicate matter, and particularly in recent years when many terror attacks in Pakistan have been carried out by Afghanistan-based militants-is often singled out by Pakistani authorities as a security threat, with the suggestion that Pakistan will become more stable when these refugees leave.
If Pakistan is to make meaningful progress in its efforts to expunge violent extremism, then it will need to root out all sources of extremism, and not just those that target Pakistan proper.