The murder of reason


By Irfan Aslam

Only five bul­lets were nee­ded to si­lence Multan’s brav­est son, Rashid Rehman. Those who mourned his death were many: the weak and the des­ti­tute, sin­gle wom­en with­out fam­i­ly sup­port, land­less peas­ants, bon­ded la­bour­ers work­ing in brick kilns and farms, and of course, Junaid Hafeez and his fam­i­ly.


Languishing in a Sahiwal pris­on for more than a year, Junaid Hafeez had ar­rived at the Bahauddin Zakariya University with big dreams and a set of mo­ral and eth­i­cal val­ues he wan­ted to im­part to his stu­dents..

As Hafeez looks out of the jail cell to­day, one thing is clear: a lec­tur­er teach­ing stu­dents to push the en­ve­lope and think crit­i­cal­ly can no lon­ger find le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. No lon­ger does Rehman live, no lon­ger can the stu­dents be taught that the eth­ics of the land have been skewed to re­strict thought and in­qui­ry. There were on­ly five bul­lets, but there were count­less vic­tims.
Rashid Rehman: the Rashid Rehman, an ad­vo­cate and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) Multan task­force co­or­di­na­tor, was not just an­oth­er law­yer and rights ac­ti­vist. Rehman was a bea­con of hope for the many who could not af­ford or ob­tain coun­sel for one rea­son or the oth­er.
“Across Multan Katchery, it was known that Rashid Saheb would take up a case even if a lit­i­gant did not have a pen­ny with him or her. Even oth­er law­yers used to send such ca­ses to Rashid Saheb,” said a close aide to Rashid Rehman, who worked along him for many years but wan­ted to re­main anon­y­mous. He said Rashid used to re­main in of­fice un­til late night, some­thing his close friends would warn him against, es­pe­cial­ly af­ter he re­ceived threats. But he was a work­a­hol­ic and tru­ly dedi­ca­ted to his cause and so he ig­nor­ed any such ad­vice.

“Rashid Saheb was on the fore­front of the strug­gle to en­sure rights for peas­ants and bon­ded la­bour­ers. Last year, his book was pub­lish­ed on the rights of land ten­ants, ti­tled Zamino Ki Bandar Baant (Unjust Distribution of Land), and it de­scribes the sit­ua­tion of ten­ants and the in­jus­tice met­ed out to them,” he says, add­ing that Rashid Saheb re­mained ac­tive with Anjuman Mazareen in Multan, Sahiwal, Okara and the whole of south Punjab through­out his ca­reer. It was this spi­rit that made him take up the case of Junaid Hafeez who had been ac­cused of blas­phemy.

“His op­pos­ing law­yers said to him right in front of the judge dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings of the case that he won’t live to ap­pear at the next hear­ing. Rashid Saheb com­plained to the judge, who did not take no­tice of the threat. His kill­ing is a big loss to the poor and the down­trod­den of the re­gion,” Rehman’s close aide said.

Ghulam Fatima, sec­re­ta­ry gen­er­al of Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF-Pakistan), says Rehman re­mained in­volved in work­ing for bon­ded la­bour for dec­a­des. “Whenever we had any is­sue in south­ern Punjab, we al­ways sought help from Rashid Saheb, and he was al­ways avail­a­ble with­out tak­ing any fee,” says Fatima. More


Categories: Asia, Pakistan

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