The Killing of Salman Taseer

It may be that the most eloquent words I can summon, in the wake of businessman and Punjab, Pakistan Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination, are these: “the death was received with shock in India.” Here I am quoting a Times of India article which is accurately headlined, “Taseer’s killing a warning to Pak’s liberal politicians.” It has been, or should I say, ought to have been, received with shock anywhere that people care about the advancement of good governance and peaceful coexistence, not only in Pakistan but all across our fractured and bloodied world.

We are told Taseer was killed over his vocal support of Asia Bibi and of the repealing of the hideous Blasphemy Law. Although this was doubtless the immediate and final cause, Taseer’s personal and political lives yielded to the Punjab’s dirty and hateful fundamentalists many useful speaking points. He was by culture, if not conviction, a Lahore Ahmadi; Part XII, Chapter 5 of the Constitution of Pakistan made it illegal for him to call himself a Muslim. (Recall that in May 2010 two Lahore Ahmadi mosques were attacked by members of the Pakistani Taliban.) His mother was a Christian, and he was married for a time to Indian journalist Tavleen Singhan, by whom he had a British-born son. All very bad things, if you view the world as a tribal fanatic. Examples of such an outlook are discouragingly easy to find on the Internet:

… his father MD Taseer was a literary person but like him who married with a Christian woman, all of his descendents love lust and passing licentious life style. Inherited immoral [i.e. Christian] genes of Salman Taseer pushed him to marry with a Sikh Indian woman in 1980, Talveen Singh, who works for Indian Express, born a son Aatish Salman Singh, who works for Times magazine.

Nasty stuff, and as you read this, Pakistan is being torn to pieces by it. Not only that, but as Taseer had the courage to say, the Punjab nourishes the disease and thereby guarantees its spreading well beyond Pakistan’s borders:

I worry about terrorism. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which is in government in the Punjab, has old linkages with and a natural affinity for extremist organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, and so many others. Let’s face it: terrorists need logistical support from within — somebody funds them, somebody guides them, and somebody looks after them — and that support is coming from the Punjab.

The Blasphemy Law, we should notice, is nothing more and nothing less than a Islamist-extremist weapon for use against rival sects and minorities, in the specific case of Bibi the Christian minority. Taseer knew well that in challenging the Blasphemy Law he was challenging the Punjab Establishment, which was itself behind a last-minute change in Taseer’s security detail and thus, it would seem, his death. Gopalapuram Parthasarathy, former High Commissioner of India to Pakistan, is quoted saying that the assassination is “a manifestation of a growing Islamist intolerance within the security establishment. The entire establishment has been swamped by rising intolerance.” Intolerance of what, exactly? As I argued in an article two days ago, of secular democracy, which undermines and indeed precludes the realization of any and all religious fundamentalist claims to absolute knowledge, absolute truth, absolute authority, and absolute power.

Salman Taseer, a far from perfect man, was trying to move his country into the future. Today there is one less person to stand for Pakistan. He was an individual of courage and principle, as well as of practical wisdom. His enemies, who will today claim a victory, are in every but one sense backward, looking forward only to the next murder.

4 responses to “The Killing of Salman Taseer

  1. No, Taseer did not criticize “whatever was being done” by Punjab Government. Taseer’s criticisms were quite specific, which is why I quote from them. His view may be summed up by what he is reported to have said to a friend: “What has jihad and military rule done to this country, other than bring us destruction?”
    Concerning sasti roti: again, look at what Taseer argued. He said atta subsidies were extravagant given the Punjab government’s deficit of the time, and the subsidies would in any case go to tandoors mostly in Lahore and Faisalabad (and would be benefitting already relatively well-off people). He was proven right, as this article explains:
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/82936/bitter-truth-about-sasti-roti/
    Concerning Basant: The deaths are the fault of those who put the glass shards on their kite strings to cut the strings of others. Bans do nothing to change this, although you may be correct that Taseer took the wrong position on this issue. That’s beyond my argument here.
    The issue I’m arguing is that Taseer opposed the blasphemy law, and I believe he was right to do so. So what if “90% convicts are infact Muslims,” as you say? I said the law was used against rivals and minorities, and if you look at the case of Mohammad Shafi, and you then look at Haji Phool Mohammad, you’ll see this is the case. The fact that the courts have overturned death sentences hardly makes the law any better. -WKS.

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  2. I think your article is very biased and written from an Indian point of view.
    You are criticizing the Punjab establishment and for getting the good they have done for the country.Salman Taseer was nothing more than some puppet, I would say a loose cannon whose basic goal was to criticize whatever that was being done by Punjab government.
    Basant festival had become a bloody festival and was banned by the Punjab government as many people were killed. Despite the loss of human life and damage to the power sector, Salman Taseer had the guts to stand up and speak against this ban. He did the same against the 2 rupee bread scheme which turned out to be a great favor for the poor people of Punjab. Unfortunately, you don’t even bother to appreciate them.
    You have been criticizing the blasphemy law, and you regarded it as a tool against the minorities. If you look at the stats, you will find that more than 90% convicts are infact Muslims and most of the convicts do not even receive punishment !

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  3. Yes, you’re quiet right; that should have been, and will be, edited out. Thank-you for bringing it to my attention. -W.

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  4. “He was by culture, if not conviction, a Lahore Shiite Ahmadi;”

    Shiite and Ahmadi are two seperate sects. Don’t know why you mixed the two.

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