Free Press Journal

Salman Taseer, a disputed hero in Pakistan


Islamabad: Three years since he was shot 27 times by his own bodyguard for standing up for a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, it seems slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer remains a disputed hero in Pakistan.

The third death anniversary of Taseer was observed in seven cities of Pakistan with civil society members and commoners observing candlelight vigils and prayers yesterday.

Interestingly, rallies were also carried out in various parts of Pakistan by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the police commando who had shot dead the then Governor as he stepped out of a cafe in the post Koshar market in Islamabad.

A vigil was organised at the very same spot where the Governor was shot dead.

“Salman Taseer’s assassination is a watershed event  in Pakistan’s social history. The long drawn but murky battle lines between those who want an inclusive and plural society and those who stand for bigotry and exclusion got clearly defined with his murder,” Harris Khalique, poet and senior columnist, told PTI.

In Lahore, where a vigil was held to remember Taseer, a simultaneous rally was also held by Qadri’s supporters.

Asked who had larger numbers, Marvi Sirmed, a human rights activist and political commentator, conceded that Qadri’s supporters were larger in numbers.

In Rawalpindi, supporters of Qadri took out a rally to express solidarity with him and demanded his release.

When Qadri was first presented before an Islamabad Court on this very day in 2011, he was showered with rose petals by a section of lawyers while many kissed his cheek as he was escorted inside.

“There are few factors that make Salman Taseer a disputed hero. First and foremost is his support for a woman perceived as a blasphemer. In Orthodox Islam, not only blasphemy itself but forgiving a blasphemer is akin to blasphemy. Supporting a blasphemer is worst,” Sirmed said when asked why Taseer is a disputed hero.

She said Taseer’s second crime was opposing blasphemy laws and calling them “black laws”.

“When you talk of blasphemy laws, they’re always perceived as laws given by Prophet himself. Laws improvised and promulgated by modern states won’t matter. They would anyhow perceive them as divine. So if you call divine law black, you’re liable to be killed,” she said.