Tag Archive for 'Salman Taseer'

No going back

Despite the good life in London, friends, schools, job security, Moni Mohsin longs to go back to Pakistan. Can she, she wonders in The Guardian

Moni Mohsin with her mother in the late '60s

Earlier this year, while in Pakistan, I visited my village where I share a house with my sister. Built nearly 300 years ago by an ancestor, it’s a traditional courtyard house with fountains, frescoes and wooden balconies. It’s also next door to a mosque mounted with powerful loudspeakers. Since we were staying the night, I sent a polite request to the mosque’s imam. Would he, just this once, just for the dawn prayer, in line with age-old tradition, call the faithful to prayer in his own voice, instead of using the loudspeaker? He obliged. Two days later someone sent an anonymous note to the house. Before you make any such demands again, it read, remember what happened to Salman Taseer.

Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated in January by a fanatical member of his own security guard for proposing a review of Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy laws. Taseer was a flamboyant figure who made no secret of his liberal views and lifestyle. Ecstatic lawyers showered his murderer with rose petals and mullahs led thousands in street demonstrations in support of the blasphemy law. Some Pakistanis who live in the west and enjoy every one of its hard-won liberties, set up Facebook pages lauding Taseer’s murderer as a hero. Middle-class kids, who salivate over Angelina Jolie and dream of a green card, condoned the murder of “an immoral, westernised liberal”. Taseer’s murder and its aftermath marked a turning point in my relationship with my homeland. more

Aatish Taseer: Why my father hated India

Aatish Taseer, the son of an assassinated Pakistani leader, explains the history and hysteria behind a deadly relationship. In The Wall Street Journal. [Aatish Taseer is the author of "Stranger to History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands." His second novel, "Noon," will be published in the U.S. in September.]

Aatish Taseer

Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture. More:

After Pakistan’s latest assassination, apathy.

Fasih Ahmed in Newsweek:

“Shahbaz, from your blood revolution will come!” Thus the protesters outside the Lahore Press Club some four hours after the assassination on Wednesday of Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities. If this scant, disorganized protest—some clutching umbrellas, others holding up blood red crucifixes as irate motorists splashed by—is any indication, this crowd is more likely to be at the wrong end of any revolution here in Pakistan

Despite the widely known threats to his life, which started in 2009 after Pakistani Christians were massacred in the small Punjab town of Gojra, Bhatti was not traveling with his security detail when he was attacked. Like Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab who was assassinated barely two months earlier, also in Islamabad, Bhatti was slain in an audaciously public manner. Bhatti, 42, had just left his mother’s house for a cabinet meeting when a white Suzuki Mehran stopped his black Corolla. Wajid Durrani, inspector-general of capital police, says three men stepped out and opened fire. Bhatti was shot 30 times, according to the autopsy, including in the head. His driver survived the attack.

“Bhatti’s ruthless and cold-blooded murder is a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism and respect for human rights in Pakistan,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, country representative for Human Rights Watch. “An urgent and meaningful policy shift on the appeasement of extremists that is supported by the military, the judiciary and the political class needs to replace the political cowardice and institutional myopia that encourages such continued appeasement despite its unrelenting bloody consequences.” More:

Pakistan awaiting the clerical tsunami

In an interview with Viewpoint, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy discusses the situation in Pakistan. Hoodbhoy received his undergraduate and PhD degrees from MIT and has been teaching nuclear and high-energy physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad for 37 years. He also lectures at US universities and laboratories, and is a frequent commentator, on Pakistani TV channels as well as international media outlets, on various social and political issues. [via 3quarksdaily]

The murder of Governor Salman Taseer, who opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law, has shocked the world. But in Pakistan the killer has become a hero for a sizeable section of society. Why?

In a society dominated by traditional religious values, heroism often means committing some violent and self-destructive act for preserving honor. Although Governor Taseer was not accused of blasphemy, his crime was to seek presidential pardon for an illiterate peasant Christian woman accused of blasphemy by some Muslim neighbours. Taseer’s intervention clearly crossed the current limits of toleration. With no party support, he went at it alone.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri – the official security guard who pumped 22 bullets into the man he was deputed to protect – is not the first such hero. The 19-year old illiterate who killed the author of the book “Rangeela Rasool” in the 1920’s, and was then executed by the British, was held in the highest esteem by the founders of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is reported that Iqbal, regarded as Islam’s pre-eminent 20th century philosopher, placed the body in the grave with tears in his eyes and said: “This young man left us, the educated men, behind.” Ghazi Ilm-e-Deen is venerated by a mausoleum over his grave in Lahore.

In his court testimony, Taseer’s assassin proudly declared that he was executing Allah’s will. Hundreds of lawyers – made famous by the Black Coat Revolution that restored Pakistan’s Chief Justice – showered him with rose petals while he was in police custody. Two hundred lawyers signed a pledge vowing to defend him for free. Significantly, Qadri is a Barelvi Muslim belonging to the Dawat-e-Islami, and 500 clerics of this faith supported his action in a joint declaration. They said that those who sympathized with Taseer deserved similar punishment.

Significantly most of these mullahs are part of the Sunni Tehreek and are supposedly anti-Taliban moderates. Indeed, one of their leaders, Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi, was blown up by a Taliban suicide bomber in June 2009 after he spoke out against suicide bombings. But now these “moderates” have joined hands with their attackers. Jointly they rule Pakistan’s streets today, while a cowardly and morally bankrupt government cringes and caves in to their every demand.

Pakistani voters have always voted for secular-leaning parties but it appears that today the religious parties actually represent popular discourse. Do you concur?

Yes, I do. Those who claim that Pakistan’s silent majority is fundamentally secular and tolerant may be clutching at straws. They argue that the religious parties don’t get the popular vote and so cannot really be popular. But this is wishful thinking. The mullah parties are unsuccessful only because they are geared for street politics, not electoral politics. They also lack charismatic leadership and have bitter internal rivalries. However the victory of the MMA after 911 shows that they are capable of closing ranks. It is also perfectly possible that a natural leader will emerge and cause an electoral landslide in the not too distant future.

But even without winning elections, the mullah parties are immensely more powerful in determining how you and I live than election-winning parties like the PPP and ANP. For a long time the religious right has dictated what we can or cannot teach in our public and private schools. No government ever had the guts to dilute the hate materials being forced down young throats. They also dictate what you and I can wear, eat, or drink. Their unchallenged power has led to Pakistan’s cultural desertification because they violently oppose music, dance, theatre, art, and intellectual inquiry.

To be sure there are scattered islands of normality in urban Pakistan. But these are shrinking. Yes, the Baluch nationalists are secular, and so is the ethnically-driven MQM in Karachi. But these constitute a tiny fraction of the population. More:

Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Shehrbano Taseer on her father Salman Taseer’s murder

Shehrbano Taseer in The New York Times:

Salman Taseer

TWENTY-SEVEN. That’s the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday — my brother Shehryar’s 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 p.m., as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father’s voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

My father’s life was one of struggle. He was a self-made man, who made and lost and remade his fortune. He was among the first members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party when it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher and a writer; he was jailed and tortured for his belief in democracy and freedom. The vile dictatorship of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq did not take kindly to his pamphleteering for the restoration of democracy. More:

A Lahore boy In Delhi

In Outlook, Vrinda Gopinath on Salman Taseer, the slain Pakistani politician:

“You know what’s the difference between Delhi and Lahore?” said Salman Taseer, as he stood on the terrace of a glittering dinner party. “They are the cars parked on the street below! Back home, there would have been rows of BMWs, Land Cruisers, but you still have your Marutis and Ambassadors,” he laughed. This was the early 1990s, the last days of pre-liberalised India, but the irony was not lost on Salman, who was acutely aware of his inheritance, of a nation carved out by powerful ruling Muslim zamindars and cigar-smoking gentry, while here was India, obstinately upholding democracy and self-sufficiency, not needing the status symbol of an imported car.

However, on every visit to Delhi or Mumbai, which was about once every five years since the ’90s, Salman would never fail to be astonished with the moving picture of modern India—of openness, forwardness, inclusiveness, and its commitment to freedom and survival. He instantly warmed up to Delhi’s swanky crystal-crusted drawing rooms but never failed to point out to questioning friends the extravagant and splashy Lahore and Karachi parties—the unmatched hyper excesses of dancing girls, overpriced Scotch and wines, and bejewelled socialites. Yet, he would say, as he met feisty women who had walked out of bad marriages, or live-in relationships, “This would never happen even in privileged Pakistan.”

Ironically, his first taste of the fascinating drama of New India came with a torrid love affair in Delhi in 1980. He had just written an acclaimed book, Bhutto: A Political Biography—on his late political leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged by the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq—and he arrived in Delhi for the first time as an adult, on a promotional tour. At a press meet, he met the journalist Tavleen Singh, and the two went headlong into a love affair that lasted through his week-long stay.

Salman returned to Lahore, to his wife and three children, only to discover that Tavleen was going to have a baby. It was easy for a brash Punjabi Muslim to carry along a consort, but it was a bold Tavleen who agreed to continue the relationship secretly for as long as they could.  More:

The slain governor: ‘he should have watched his word’

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.

Salman Taseer murder throws Pakistan in fresh crisis

Assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s India links include the writer Aatish Taseer, the son he had with journalist Tavleen Singh. His murder in Pakistan silences a the voice of a secular politician and has uncanny echoes with the assassination of Indira Gandhi. In The Guardian, Declan Walsh writes about the man who wasn’t afraid of going against the grain of majority opinion.

Salman Taseer

Pakisatan lurched into a fresh crisis after an outspoken secular politician was shot dead by a fanatic who opposed reform of the country’s draconian blasphemy laws. Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer, was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards as he stepped from his car in Islamabad’s Kohsar market, a favoured haunt of westerners and wealthy Pakistanis. The assassin, who belonged to an elite police force tasked with protecting Taseer, shot the governor at least nine times before dropping his weapon and surrendering to colleagues. Officials named him as Mumtaz Qadri. “A guard jumped out of a car with a flashing light on top of it. He pointed his Kalashnikov at [Taseer's] window and blasted it,” said one witness. more

In The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Salmaan Taseer teased the edge in private as he did in public. He married thrice and a brief tryst with Indian journalist Tavleen Singh produced his best-known progeny, author Aatish Taseer, who made the difficult and poignant relationship with his father the subject of a celebrated book called Stranger to History.

Excerpt from Aatish Taseer‘s Stranger to History:

Aatish Taseer

”When I was very young, my mother explained her separation from my father in terms of a fight with a friend, not unlike those I had routinely with my friends. When my questions became more sophisticated, she told me about his political career and how it would have been impossible if we had been in his life. And though I didn’t have a good impression of my father, I don’t think I had a bad one either.

She often said, ‘Sometimes people come together for a reason, to create something or someone, and then they go their own ways.’ This made me think, at least when I was child, of my father’s departure as something unavoidable for which no one was to blame. My grandfather, of course, made it seem like just one more chapter in the Partition saga he had lived through.

When I was eight or nine, I wrote my father a letter, expressing my desire to see him, which I sent with my mother to Pakistan where she was covering the election. ‘If I see him, I’ll give it to him,’ she said, ‘but be prepared that he may not reply. What will you do if he doesn’t?’

‘I’ll leave it and never get in touch with him again.’As it happened, with my mother covering the election and my father contesting it, they did run into each other. My mother gave him my letter. He took it and told her he would reply, but never did. And for years I made no effort to contact him again.”