Tag Archive: Salmaan Taseer


It was in 2006 that the most irresponsible act of blasphemy was committed by a religious person like Pope Benedict XVI when he made certain uncalled for and objectionable remarks against the person of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Although he had to cut a sorry figure after condemnation of his remarks, he has now again thrown caution to the wind and tried to provoke the sentiments of Muslims by demanding to scrap the law. According to media reports, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called on Pakistan to scrap a blasphemy law after the murder of the governor of Punjab, saying the legislation was a pretext for “acts of injustice and violence”.

The Pope did not realize that all the rational people in Pakistan are mindful of the implications of the law but no one is demanding its outright repeal, all of them are peacefully struggling to improve the law and the procedure so that the extremists are deprived of the space to misuse it to target hapless minorities. In the present charged atmosphere, the demand of the Pope is like showing a red rag to the bull. It is also like adding fuel to fire and he has done disservice to the millions of Christians living in Pakistan’s society now sharply divided on religion.

The pope, who was speaking at a traditional New Year‘s meeting with foreign ambassadors to the Vatican, said the anti-blasphemy legislation was an example of “norms prejudicing the right to religious freedom.”

More than 50,000 people rallied in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Sunday against the controversial reform of the blasphemy law that was behind the shooting of Punjab governor Salman Taseer last week.

Taseer had called for reform of the blasphemy law that was recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death. But his outspoken liberal stance offended the country’s increasingly powerful conservative religious base.

Controversy over the law flared when former information minister Sherry Rehman tabled a bill in November calling for an end the death penalty for blasphemy, after Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi was sentenced to hang.

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It is widely believed that Salman Taseer was killed to punish him for raising voice against injustices meted out to members of hapless strata of the society, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Similar punishments were awarded previously to members of legal fraternity for representing blasphemy suspects. The problem with the offense of blasphemy in Pakistan is that the accused is convicted by the accuser and the society before the court passes any judgment. Then no judge can dare to acquit the accused.  With Taseer murder, Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy has lost all the hopes of getting any justice from the courts or clemency from the President. According to media reports, she broke down in her prison cell and wept inconsolably when she learnt of the assassination of Salman Taseer, the liberal politician who had visited her in jail and demanded that she be pardoned.

“She kept crying throughout the day. She kept saying. ‘That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me’,” The Independent quoted a prison source, as saying.

“She said: ‘I know that everything that has happened is because of me. I know in my heart of hearts, that person came here for me and what I feel now, no one else can feel’,” the source added.

Aasia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, who is living in hiding, fearful for his life, echoed her grief, saying: “[When Salmaan Taseer visited], both of us felt very happy after the meeting and we were hopeful that she was going to be set free.”

“Now, the [Punjab] Governor has given his life. It’s a huge sacrifice,” he added.

Since she was first accused of blasphemy in 2009, Aasia has been held in an isolation unit within Sheikhpura prison. But after Taseer’s own bodyguard killed him on Tuesday, and Aasia’s case was subsequently thrust ever deeper into the public consciousness, a guard has been placed directly outside her 8ft by 10ft cell to provide additional, round-the-clock protection, the report said.
She is allowed out of cell No 2 for two hours a day to exercise, but is prevented from meeting or speaking with other prisoners, purportedly for her own well-being, it added.

“We just try and treat her like any other prisoner,” said prison superintendent, Khalid Sheikh.

Aasia’s husband, who has three other children from an earlier marriage, has supported his wife since her incarceration, moving his family to a single-room house located at little more than a mile from the jail. But within hours of Taseer’s assassination, and amid mounting concerns from other Christians about their own safety, Masih was forced to flee and go into hiding and use an assumed identity.

Speaking on mobile phone, he said that even if Aasia were cleared by the appeal process, they would no longer feel safe living in Pakistan.

“We are feeling very scared and we feel it will never be safe for us in Pakistan,” said Masih.

“I get my strength from Jesus Christ and I am hopeful that he is going to save my wife. But now the circumstances have changed. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he added. (ANI)

Now things are becoming clearer and more understandable. We should forgive those journalists, TV anchors and political leaders who support or avoid opposing and condemning extremists. They have a very genuine reason to live in hypocrisy. Someone who dared to oppose extremism, had to pay the price with his own life; a price for being forthright, honest, bold and outspoken. In spite of his failings and weaknesses as a human, he went down fighting a menace Pakistan has created itself. Punjab’s slain governor Salman Taseer had refused to accept that Pakistani society is no more a society of rational people; it is a jungle where you have to accept the command of those capable of killing. You must bow down to them or get perished. Period. The world is in shock at the gory incident but it fails to understand the fact that the act is being glorified by those elements who claim to profess a religion of peace. This is the most disgusting thing, more than the murder itself. And look at the attitude of the lawyers, the so-called custodians of “rule of law” who kissed and garlanded the accused when he was brought to the court. These are all very disturbing signs. Even Islam would not condone this attitude of showing disrespect to the due process of law.

It is not important that Governor Taseer was a politician and that he was killed at a point in time when his party’s government at the Center was facing worst ever crisis of its survival. The most important thing is that we have come to a pass where you cannot question a menace, particularly the one which was created to please a more dangerous menace, the clergy. The world which was worried about Pakistan’s political crisis is now in shock and unable to think what will happen next. The New York Times says that the assassination of an outspoken secular politician by one of his elite police guards on Tuesday plunged the government deeper into political crisis and highlighted the threat of militant infiltration even within the nation’s security forces.

The killing of Salman Taseer, the prominent governor of Punjab Province, was another grim reminder of the risks that Pakistani leaders take to oppose religious extremists, at a time when the United States is pushing Pakistan for greater cooperation in the war in Afghanistan by cracking down on militant groups like the Taliban.

Mr. Taseer, recently took up a campaign to repeal Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy laws, which were passed under General Zia as a way to promote Islam and unite the country. The laws have been misused to convict minority Pakistanis as the Islamic forces unleashed by the general have gathered strength. The laws prescribe a mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam.

Religious parties staged vigorous demonstrations of thousands of people across the country last weekend to protest the campaign by Mr. Taseer, even burning him in effigy. Mr. Taseer countered in comments on his Twitter account and elsewhere.

“Religious right trying to pressurize from the street their support of blasphemy laws. Point is it must be decided in Parliament not on the road,” he wrote on Dec. 26 in the imperfect shorthand typical of such posts.

“I was under huge pressure to cow down before rightist’s pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing,” he posted on Dec. 31.

Mr. Taseer’s death will serve as a chilling warning to any politician who speaks out against the religious parties and their agenda and will certainly end immediate attempts to amend the blasphemy laws.

The paper also reports that Obama administration officials worry that even if Pakistan’s government survives the upheaval — which they believe it might, for a while — the turmoil could kill any chance for political and economic reforms. The assassination, one official said, leaves not only the repeal of the blasphemy laws in doubt, but also possible reforms to increase tax collection. Under pressure from Secretary of State and other American officials, the Pakistani government submitted a new tax law in Parliament. But it may abandon the push as a way to lure back coalition partners.