Salmaan Taseer’s Orchestrated Murder

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First Published in The Guardian


Photograph: B.K.Bangash/AP

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 Salmaan 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.

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6 thoughts on “Salmaan Taseer’s Orchestrated Murder

  1. i do not agree with yu in this article sana salman taseer was not a good man he commited alot of sins when he was alive. why is it that in pakistan today that high society people including government ministers can say whhat they want to and they know they can get a away with it. i personally believe he deserved what he got. i have been to pakistan and after seeing what the young get upto i am proud to be living in the uk, at least we practice what we preach in terms of islam. what have the pakistanis living in pakistan got to say about this, you have clubs where westernise clothes and still call urselves muslim i dont think so salman taseer was a drunk who taught his own children to drink and you people think he should not have died. for people like him to say that the woman who swore at our beloved prophet and be pardoned is unacceptable. for qadri to kill him according to pakistani is a sinn but everyone not only in pakistan but the west also know that nothing would have been said to taseer like everything else in that country everything is corrupt. you cannot feel sorryfor the killing of taseer. i have heard that his father was a nice man he must have turned un his grave after his own son called the blasphemy law black law. well taseer will be burning in his grave at this precise moment……………..

  2. Exactly what it is, unfortunately. We need to get to the core and cure our people, and this is only through good governance, and deliver what has been promised, on time and every time. As the representative of the people, the government has no right to turn its head away and just tag along with what they want as individuals, they have no right over our tax money. We pay our taxes for the betterment of our people, not for sole profiteering of a handful of individuals who have for decades created this anarchy within the country. If not now, we’ll soon see exactly what’s happened in Afghanistan, happen here. And we still don’t take lessons from history. Or probably that’s exactly what they want to see happen.

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  4. I think your following statement is the crux of this whole
    issue. “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.” We are
    not only tolerating but cultivating such mindset for decades,
    thanks to Zia-ul-Haq, and we are not accepting a simple solution to
    this problem. Education.

  5. Dear Sana

    I been through your article thanks God there are still people in my country who have soft corner for humanity …. I was so shocked when the media showed a killer as hero and the support of people for…….Being a Muslim I believe that Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) has taught the principles of Humanity 1st…..but we follow whatever we feel is good for us, we have destroyed the real image of Islam and we are blaming the west for all these.
    Giving and taking life of its creature is something from divine then how come we act like ….even though we know what kind of approach we have ….. Animals are far better……
    I really don’t like the politics and politicians of Pakistan because they do nothing for the needy n poor people of Pakistan except some false promises but when we talk about humanity then we have to consider to forgive n forget ….we have plenty of examples of forgiveness of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), why don’t we take that as role model why don’t we consider that devotion and forgiveness are the best part of human being, why we act like inhuman???????
    I have no words to express my inner that how bad I am feeling, only I can pray that may God show us the right path and give us the understanding of right and wrong. Ameen

    Thanks allot for writing this article which I feel is need of time

  6. Jo deen kay hurf-e-aakhir hain, wo jin ke siva sub kafir hain,
    un jhotoon aur makaron say, un deen k thaykaydaron say,
    main baghi hun main baghi hun

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