Responding to the death of Osama bin Laden, advocates of human rights and religious freedom in Pakistan say the real work of rooting out terrorism remains to be done.
“It is a moment of relief for many human rights activists,” said Peter Jacob, executive secretary of Pakistan's National Commission for Justice and Peace.
“There is a sense of satisfaction, too, that someone who believed in the death of others is no longer there.”
But Jacob and other Pakistani Christians worry that Bin Laden's followers “will still try to whip up hate campaigns for political gain.”
He said Bin Laden's discovery and death in the urban area of Abottabad should be a wake-up call to authorities. “Coming out of a state of denial is in everybody's interest,” he told CNA on May 2. “Extremism in Pakistan is not territory-specific, nor is the military response sufficient. The civilian leadership has to chalk out a road map to legal, economic and educational reforms.”
Jacob, whose commission promotes human rights on behalf of Pakistan's Catholic bishops, was initially skeptical about the news reports of Bin Laden's death.
“I was sitting in my office reading the newspaper, sipping tea. The newspaper did not have this news as this operation was carried out early in the morning,” he recalled.
“A colleague of mine, who had been sitting in front of the TV, entered my room and told me Osama was killed. 'Once again?' I questioned back, as I suspected that he was alive, because I had read stories claiming he was dead already.”
But the Al-Qaeda leader's May 1 death at the hands of U.S. special forces was no false alarm. Instead, it was a moment of cautious optimism.
“I think the incident will accelerate the process of rethinking among the Muslims that will marginalize rigid and violent theories in the end,” Jacob reflected. At the same time, “it is also feared that extremists will target high-profile people – as they have made it clear through a message this morning – and wage attacks.”
“The Christians in Pakistan, because they face violence in the name of religion, are cautious about their reaction for existential reasons,” he observed.
He said that the Vatican's carefully-measured message, holding Bin Laden “gravely responsible” for killing innocent people, but refusing to “rejoice” in his death, was “timely and helpful.” Jacob also hopes that the White House's message, explaining that its war on terrorism is not a fight against the religion of Islam itself, will be translated into local languages and be understood among the public.
“These is local or folk wisdom that people of Pakistan can benefit from also,” Jacob pointed out, quoting the words of the 19th century Sufi Muslim poet Mian Mohammad Bakhsh:
“Do not rejoice on the death of an enemy,
Because friends will die too one day.
Every dawn is doomed to submerge in dusk,
And don't let glee or gloom take the best of you away.”