Pervez Hoodbhoy at The Express Tribune:
Governor Salmaan Taseer died at the hands of a religious fanatic on January 4 last year. Fearlessly championing a deeply unpopular cause, this brave man had sought to revisit the country’s blasphemy law which, as he saw it, was yet another means of intimidating Pakistan’s embattled religious minorities. This law — which is unique in having death as the minimum penalty — would have sent to the gallows an illiterate Christian peasant woman, Aasia Bibi, who stood accused by her Muslim neighbours after a noisy dispute. Taseer’s publicly-voiced concern for human life earned him 26 high-velocity bullets from one of his security guards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri. The other guards watched silently.
In this long, sad, year more has followed. Justice Pervez Ali Shah, the brave judge who ultimately sentenced Taseer’s murderer in spite of receiving death threats, has fled the country. Aasia Bibi is rotting away in jail, reportedly in solitary confinement and in acute psychological distress. Shahbaz Taseer, the governor’s son, was abducted in late August — presumably by Qadri’s sympathisers. He remains untraceable. Shahbaz Bhatti, another vocal voice against the blasphemy law, was assassinated weeks later on March 2. More:
From Dawn, Karachi:
The son of a Pakistani governor who was killed by his bodyguard for his opposition to a harsh blasphemy law this year was kidnapped in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday, police and the family said.
Four men on motorbikes intercepted Shahbaz Taseer in his car in the upscale Gulberg area and took him to a nearby street before kidnapping him, police said, quoting witnesses.
“Shahbaz was out with a friend when four unidentified people kidnapped him,” his brother Shehryar Taseer told Reuters.
Shahbaz Taseer is a director in several companies his father founded, including Pace Pakistan Ltd., First Capital Equities Ltd., Media Times Ltd. and First Capital Securities Corp. Ltd.
“Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups,” Shehryar said, adding they could be behind the abduction.
No one has yet claimed responsibility.
More here, here
Ejaz Haider in The Express Tribune on Aatish Taseer‘s article (see post below: “Why my father hated India”) in The Wall Street Journal:
Mercifully, contained within Aatish’s piece are pointers to greater complexity. The father was killed because he supported a Christian woman. How does that fit in with the article’s thesis that the father hated India (and Pakistan has to hate India and be Muslim) because that religious distinction lies at the core of its ‘other’-isation of India? Or is Pakistan more complex than is hinted in the article?
Aatish’s father did not ‘hate’ India. He was one of those who did much to open up Lahore — to Indians — by using the Basant festival. There is not a single viable political party in Pakistan that does not want to normalise with India. That is a matter of record. But Salmaan Taseer (Aatish’s eye for detail doesn’t inspire much confidence since he gets the spellings of his father’s name wrong), like others, was a proud Pakistani. We don’t need to ‘other’ India to be Pakistanis but neither can we ignore real problems that need to be addressed. Tackling those problems requires mature analysis, not reducing everything to Pakistan’s identity crisis vis-a-vis India.
But what of the Pakistani military, the villains in all this? Since Aatish began with India’s failed GSLV rocket test, let me put in some facts here for him.
The Indian Army, standing at over 1.1 million active-service personnel and 1.8 million reserves, is configured under six area commands (operational) and one army training command (ARTRAC). Three of these area commands — western, northern and southwestern — are totally Pakistan-specific. A fourth, central command, with one corps (1 Corps) is also primarily Pakistan-specific. The Indian Army has 13 corps, out of which eight, including one from the central command, are specific to Pakistan. More:
With the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the liberal parliamentarian has lost her second ally in opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Declan Walsh from Islamabad in The Guardian:
And then there was one. Of the three brave Pakistani politicians who stood up for Aasia Bibi, an embattled Christian woman flung on to death row last year, just one is still alive: Sherry Rehman. The liberal parliamentarian from Karachi, known for her glamorous style and outspoken views, spearheaded efforts to reform the much-abused blasphemy law after Bibi, a mother of four, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.
Rehman, 50, was joined in her lonely struggle by two men – the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. Now both of them are dead and worries are growing that Rehman is next. “Make no mistake: she is in grave danger, like nobody else,” one friend said.
Rehman, is currently in New Delhi, visiting the Indian capital for a conference, in a rare public appearance. Since Taseer was gunned down by his guard outside an Islamabad cafe on 4 January she has lived in near hiding. She spent most of January holed up inside her Karachi home, surrounded by police and advised by senior government ministers to flee Pakistan lest she be assassinated.
“I get two types of advice about leaving,” she said then. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” More:
Sherry Rehman, glamorous, principled, sharp, tells Declan Walsh of The Observor why she will not leave Pakistan, despite death threats and hate mail for her opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
All Sherry Rehman wants is to go out – for a coffee, a stroll, lunch, anything. But that’s not possible. Death threats flood her email inbox and mobile phone; armed police are squatted at the gate of her Karachi mansion; government ministers advise her to flee. “I get two types of advice about leaving,” says the steely politician. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” She pauses, then adds quietly: “At least for now.”
It’s been almost three weeks since Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down outside an Islamabad cafe. As the country plunged into crisis, Rehman became a prisoner in her own home. Having championed the same issue that caused Taseer’s death – reform of Pakistan‘s draconian blasphemy laws – she is, by popular consensus, next on the extremists’ list. more
In Pakistan, response to the assassination of liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer has ranged from the frankly jubilant to the more muted, well, he had it coming. Many Pakistanis believe the governor’s critique of blasphemy laws made his death if not justifiable then at least understandable. And some went further…In The Guardian Mohammad Hanif has the story.
Minutes after the murder of the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province Salmaan Taseer I saw a veteran Urdu columnist on a news channel. He was being what, in breaking news jargon, is called a “presenter’s friend”. “It is sad of course that this has happened but . . .”
I watched in the desperate hope that he wouldn’t go into the ifs and buts of a brutal murder in the middle of Pakistan‘s capital. By this time we knew that Governor Taseer had been shot dead by a man in police uniform, probably one of his own police guards. The news ticker on screen informed us that the postmortem was under way. Later we would find out that he took 27 bullets. Not a single shot was fired by his security detail. It seemed too early for analysis, but the presenter’s friend looked mildly smug, as if he had been mulling over arguments in his head long before the governor was shot. Although it wasn’t required, the presenter egged him on. “But you see these are sensitive matters. He should have watched his words. He shouldn’t have spoken so carelessly.” more
Pakistan must face up to the enemy within, writes Praveen Swami in The Telegraph. Read that story here.
And, Setback for tolerance, says Time magazine.