Salman Taseer: murder in an extremist climate

It was less than a month ago that a Muslim cleric from Peshawar, Yousaf Qureshi, publicly offered money to anyone who would kill Aasia Bibi; kill in the name of the blasphemy law. Despite the public announcement and incitement to murder for money, no action was taken against this man. It was overlooked as an emotional outburst.

However, these public incitements to murder and violence do not always end there; there are many waiting to carry out such acts in the name of religion. On Tuesday, one such man gunned down Salman Taseer, Punjab governor, business tycoon and a vocal critic of abuse of the blasphemy law. Taseer was shot dead outside a restaurant in Islamabad by one of his own guards, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. Shortly afterwards, he handed himself to police, beaming with pride in front of cameras while confessing that he had killed Taseer because of his opposition to the blasphemy law. As Taseer's bullet-riddled body was taken to hospital, later to be pronounced dead, Qadri's confession was broadcast on television. A young bearded man, smiling, staring right into the camera while confessing a murder. There was no sign of remorse, only an uncanny smile reflecting reassurance that God will accept his great deed.

Shamefully, Qadri is not alone, as many as eight Facebook fan pages sprang up within a few hours, pronouncing Qadri a "hero" and a "son of Pakistan". Clerics announced that Taseer's death can't be mourned because he supported a blasphemer, Bibi. In one breath, television anchors described his death as a great loss at this time of political instability and questioned his stance on the blasphemy law.

The interior minister, while talking to the media, spoke about the need for added security for government personnel and emphasised the importance of better scrutiny of those who join the elite forces. However, the real cause of Taseer's assassination was only whispered, minced with other issues, when it should be the only thing on our minds. His death is more than just a political loss, it is a reminder of the extremism, bigotry and intolerance that has been brewing in the very heart of this country. The roots of this can be tracked back over three decades, when murder became justified in the name of religion, when killing someone for having an opinion became a law in this country.

His death indicates the strength of the forces Pakistan is up against. It highlights the inhumanity that is propagated by these draconian laws. As an activist, I will not allow his death and the cause he stood for to go in vain. We can't afford to succumb to extremism. His murder is a message to everyone in Pakistan who stands for justice and humanity, that the intolerance, the extremism, the vigilantism has devoured us all as a society. It is a threat to silence all those who stand for justice, to make them kowtow to extremism or have their heads struck off in the name of religion. Civil society in Pakistan and everyone else who has been struggling for justice needs to come forth stronger than before.

Taseer's assassination was orchestrated through public announcements, hate speech on television, text messages and even by distributing pamphlets. Each one of these actions was overlooked, eventually leading to Taseer's cold murder. As for the authorities in Pakistan, they should realise that no amount of security will help, when the extremist mindsets and factors that cultivate them continue to be tolerated. Until the state takes firm action against the hate campaigns, many more Qadris will spring up ready to gun down anyone who dares to speak out against injustice.

Sana Saleem, a features editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices, Dawn Blog and her personal blog Mystified Justice.

1 comentario

  1. No any Muslim can say that Blasphemy law should be abrogated. Nor Shaheed Governor Taseer said so. When he said It is a black Law, that clearly meant that Law is not wrong but its formation style was wrong because record shows, that many Christians were managed to entangle in these type of cases due to some personal problem. Court works on witness but it is quite easy to prepare false witness in Pakistan. Because there is no any hard punishments for the culprit who provides the false witness. Unless truthful witness is assured. Justice dept in Pak is useless and dangerous.

    Taseer Shaheed was a great civilized brave person. He knew thru his sources that That Christian woman is punished in this case due to person enmity.

    This is worst kind of example that a Religious-Mad-Jahil--fanatic Mumtaz Qadri has murdered a great man and bastrd Mullahs are supporting a criminal.

    Most shameful is, that there are hundreds of Crazy mad Mullahs who are supporting this murder and making that criminal killer as their Hero & no one is there to arrest them..

    Here My colleage [not from pak] was smiling upon this murder when he read that news of horror and he told me, now we know, why Pakistan is failed to control Talbans. I asked why? He replied " because whole Pakistanis are Crazy Talbans".

    Army and Government must hang that Criminal killer in front of Public and must arrest all those mad-Mullahs & Jahil-Lawyers who showered flowers on that mad-Killer and These all supporters of Killers must be sent to Prison for Life. If power is in our hands, we will not leave even one Mullahs who are supporting killer in their speeches even now.

    Mullahs & religious-fanaticism are Cancer of Pakistan. We bet with you that PAKISTAN IN NO WAY & NEVER EVER CAN proceed froward unless these all Crazy-Mullahs are sentenced to death and Madrasas that breed killers like Mumtaz Kadri are closed permanently.
    These Mulahs have no any love for Prophet. They are just nasty hypocrite actors. Make that Mullah a Hajj minister, who claim that he is lover of Rasool, we bet, he will steal mony from Hajis.
    If this liar Killer son of Satan Mumraz Kadri who acted as a Lover of Prophet was made Minister; he would had stolen millions from funds.
    Pakistani Mullah have in fact no religion; neither Muslim nor Hindu nor Jew. They are only one thing and that is a group of HYPOCRITE MONAFIKS.
    I am top recognized scholar of Islam & I know, Quran never allow such kind of killings. No ways


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