Sunday, January 9, 2011

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer: Another Victim of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws

Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan,
shot dead recently by his own guard

Photo courtesy:

Among hundreds of victims of the Pakistan's blasphemy laws, a new but important name has been added in the list. On last January 4, Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab province and a proponent of amendment to blasphemy laws, was shot dead in Islamabad by one of his own elite police bodyguards.

As the governor, after having lunch with one of his friends in a local restaurant, was coming toward his car, the guard shot him at a close range with a submachine gun. He is said to have received 26 bullets in his person and died instantly. After his arrest, the gunman told police that because of the governor's opposition to the existing blasphemy laws, he killed him.

Governor Salman Taseer is a liberal politician and a senior member of the presently ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). He was a vocal critic of the Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws, initiated by the then dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in 1982 and widened its sphere in 1986.

Some consider the death of Salman Taseer as a rise and influence of the radical Islamists out there to silence liberal Muslims. Many of these liberal Muslims appreciated the role played by Mr. Taseer as a lone voice among the voiceless criticizing the present form of the blasphemy laws that are being interpreted and used to fight opponents, Muslims and people of minority communities (Hindus, Ahmadi or Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Christians). These laws are also being used for personal and political reasons by some people of the land-holding class and, in many cases, supported by some police, lawyers and judges. There were also many cases of grabbing lands and other properties from marginalized people who are both Muslims and minority groups. The evil effects of the blasphemy laws are persistently going on since their introduction in the country.

This senseless killing has been condemned all over the world.

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