Pakistan quietly absorbed the news of execution of Ajmal Kasab and broke its silence only to contest India’s contention that Islamabad had refused to accept the advance communication from New Delhi about the execution.
Even the media coverage was muted with television channels moving away from the story rather early in the day. Clearly, it was not the equivalent of the print media’s “stop press” moment for television channels as they returned to their regular programming after the initial pandering to the ‘breaking news’ syndrome. And within hours, it was just a headline; dropping down in importance as the clock ticked.
Some of the media houses did send their correspondents to Kasab’s village Faridkot in Okara district of central Punjab. There they encountered problems with the locals turning a tad hostile and security personnel dissuading them from dwelling on the story that would bring a bad name to Pakistan.
Kasab’s family, by all accounts, no longer lives in the village. Reporters who have visited the area in recent days, ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, said a shroud of silence hangs heavy in the village whenever Kasab is mentioned as locals try to move away from the story that brought international spotlight on them.
Even on social media sites, reactions were slow to come by. Some civil society activists tried to moderate the discourse by reposting/re-tweeting the less celebratory voices coming out of India while arguing against efforts in Pakistan to rake up the Sarabjeet Singh issue. Amid calls for hanging Sarabjeet Singh — facing death sentence for terror attacks in Faislabad and Lahore in 1991 — in response, journalist and civil society activist Beena Sarwar tweeted: “Stop comparing them. Sarabjeet has spent over 20 years in prison, there are doubts regarding his identity, main witness says he gave wrong evidence.”
Terrorist organisations, on the other hand, were more vocal in their response. International news agencies quoted a Laskar-e-Taiba commander as stating that Kasab was a hero who would “inspire more fighters to follow his path,” while the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said it was a big loss that a Muslim was hanged on Indian soil.
The Jamat-ud-Da’wah — which India holds responsible for the Mumbai attacks — offered no reaction through the day; though it has of late become very active on social media; commenting on various issues and keeping a hawk-eye vigil on events in India.
Meanwhile, no request was made by Kasab’s family till late in the evening for his body. Speaking to reporters, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said no member of his family had approached the government to get his body back. “If they do, we will take it up with the Indian government,” he added.
Coming as Kasab’s execution did, six days after Pakistan’s first hanging in four years, human rights activists could not help comment on the irony in the fact that the two countries should have broken the unofficial moratorium on implementing death sentences within a week. The execution of a soldier last week was the first in Pakistan since the current dispensation took over in March, 2008.