Tag Archives: SalmanTaseer

Remembering innocents

If you require my personal opi­nion, I don’t like this law at all. Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law. I have showed my solidarity with minority communities who are being targeted by this law and, in doing so, I have sent across a firm message. The actual problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. The thing I find worrisome is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask, why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50 per cent of them are Christians when they constitute less than 2 per cent of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is abused to target minorities. What I find particularly loathsome is that when you speak of amendment, people assume you condone the crime. If I am against the death sentence, it does not mean I condone murder. The sentence against Aasia is inhumane. I have been handed over an appeal for a presidential pardon which I will convey to the president and soon Aasia will be pardoned. The blasphemy law is not a God-constituted law. It’s a man-made law. It was founded by General Ziaul Haq. Hence it’s a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities. Salmaan Taseer a vocal critic of the blasphemy law, showed his overwhelming support for Aasia Bibi and his response on blasphemy laws in an interview with Newsline on December 23, 2010

On 4 January 2011, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad by his bodyguard, who disagreed with Taseer’s above stand on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and Aasia Bibi. Ever since he was murdered for attempting to reform blasphemy laws in 2011, politicians have been reluctant to take a firm stance on the issue. Religion supposed to provide sanctuary to those who are insecure intellectually or physically not to take life of those who have difference of opinion or no opinion.

On 13 April 2017 a mob of hundreds of students marched through the university campus chanting religious slogans as they searched for Mashal Khan, he was grabbed from his room by a mob, while they stripped naked and beat their colleague Mashal Khan with sticks and bricks, the 20-25 students of the Mardan university enjoyed precisely this feeling of righteousness. They said Khan had posted content disrespectful of Islam on his Facebook page and so they brought it upon themselves to punish him. Ultimately, one student took out his pistol and shot him in the head and chest and then his body desecrated by a mob accusing him of committing blasphemy. Hundreds of others watched approvingly and, with their smartphone cameras, video-recorded the killing. This indicates that much of the Pakistani public endorses violent punishment of suspected blasphemers. Why? How did so many Pakistanis become bloodthirsty vigilantes? Politicians and clerics have both spoken of the need to prevent false blasphemy allegations. But there is less agreement on whether blasphemy laws should actually be altered. A great deal of the condemnation has revolved around the mob taking the law into their own hands. Mashaal Khan had blasphemed! Until this was finally exhibited to be false, no proper funeral was possible in his home village.

Mr Iqbal Khan said my son, was murdered by people who he had trusted would teach him. He will never come back, but his memory may live on eternally. I know justice will not bring my son back. Still I urge all political parties, for your children’s sake and mine let’s become one. Let’s send out the message loud and clear.  

No one should be frightened of going to school.

We lost Mashaal Khan but I don’t know what message we gave to the world in his demise. Mr Iqbal Khan has astounded everyone with a composed response to his son’s brutal murder, no tears from him but an imperturbable and indomitable warrior who is trusted to get justice for his son. Mashaal Khan had Iqbal Khan for a father, a respected figure with strong social bonds and political beliefs who has become an inspiration for thousands of people like me.

Could the case change blasphemy laws?

I am afraid no, we will be raging again for someone innocent, who will become the target of blasphemy, hundreds of articles will be written and countless condemnations from the lawmakers.


You are free to go to your temples…

You are free; you are free to go to your temples…
It was Salman Taseer in 1967 who welcomed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he left the government of General Ayub and came to Lahore to form the Pakistan People’s Party. Salman Taseer, who was himself a student at the time, was there to sing the taglines for “Jeye Bhutto”. This was the beginning of Salman Taseer’s long journey with Pakistan People’s Party. And it was Salman Taseer again in 1986 who came to greet the daughter of Pakistan’s first elected Prime Minister. He was the official spokesperson for young Benazir Bhutto. His words, on her arrival still resonate in my mind:
“A new realism is dawning on these people who have no people, not even a cat or a dog behind them. I saw people running around the Grand Trunk Road for miles barefoot just to get a glimpse of Benazir Bhutto. She is their Joan of Arc, with courage, credentials and she is attractive.”
But I commend the Salman Taseer for strongly defending Asia BiBi. Salman Taseer’s brave stand exposed the hidden extremism in Pakistan. Before his murder only Taliban’s were known extremists and terrorists. As governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer visited Asia Bibi at Sheikhupura jail in 2010 who was wrongly accused of blasphemy. In a televised press conference, with Asia sitting veiled beside him, Salman Taseer had appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon her.
A few weeks later, on 4 January, 2011, Salman Taseer was murdered in broad daylight by his own security guard. In the middle of the busy Kohsar Market in Islamabad, Mumtaz Qadri fired at the governor 27 times at close range. Overnight, Qadri emerged as a hero to millions of people. Giving himself up to the authorities, Qadri told the police that he did not regret killing Salman Taseer – it was his religious duty.
Khadim Rizvi served as a clerk in a small local mosque. He was an employee of the government and a marginal figure, but even then he was known for his controversial lectures. As a preacher, Khadim Rizvi often glorified Salman Taseer’s murder. He was ultimately dismissed from his work as a cleric over the sermons which praised Qadri as a martyr. He turned toward politics and founded the TLP.
Then, during 2018 elections, claiming to be defenders of Prophet Mohammed’s honour, this small populist party won more than two million votes. Throughout the campaign, their posters and banners carried pictures of Mumtaz Qadri, Idolising him as a martyr of the cause.
The deep rift within Pakistani society between the so-called religious and openly secular, between western liberal elites and ordinary Pakistanis threatens to further destabilise Pakistan. Pakistan remains grappling with a serious identity crisis. The Urdu interpretation of secularism is “no religion”, sometimes referred to as “anti-religion”. Supporters of a neutral religious space are thus hindered by the perceived hostility of this neutrality towards Islam.
Salman Taseer, was a rare Pakistani politician. He was an avowed liberal, a fierce opponent of extremism, and a staunch advocate for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer’s blood gave life to the dying words of father of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Long live Salman Taseer!