Pakistani Governor Salman Taseer has been killed by one of his police guards, who says he killed Taseer for his opposition to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law. That law, which is popular with much of the country, has been the source of heated national debate following the recent death sentence ordered for a Christian woman. As the governor of Punjab province and a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, Taseer was a major political force in Pakistan. Here's what Pakistan-watchers and English-language Pakistani writers are saying about his death and its significance.
- The Political Fight That Cost Him His Life The New York Times' Salman Masood and Carlotta Gall report:
Taseer, a successful businessman who owned a television channel and was the publisher of a liberal English-language daily, had been allied with rights activists, critics and several government officials in urging the government to repeal or revise the country’s blasphemy law. Effigies of Mr. Taseer were burned in countrywide protests last Friday when a strike by Islamist parties, seeking to head off any change in the law, brought Pakistan to a standstill.
- In Recent Interview, Taseer Explained His Mission In a Dec. 23 interview with Pakistan Newsline, Taseer said, "The real problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. This also gives us a bad name in the world." When asked about the fatwas that had been issued against him for opposing the blasphemy law, he said, "These are a bunch of self-appointed maulvis who no one takes seriously. The thing I find disturbing is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask how many of them are well-to-do? How many businessmen? Why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50% of them are Christians when they form less than 2% of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is misused to target minorities."
- Pakistan's 'Tolerance of Intolerance' To Blame Pakistani blogger Adil Najam lets loose.
Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri may have pulled the trigger but let us all hang our head in shame today because Salman Taseer was killed by the intolerance, the hatred, the extremism, the vigilantism, the violence and the jahalat that now defines our society. He was killed by the unchecked air of false sanctimony where custodians of morality have been breathing fire and instigating violence and everyone in Pakistan. Each one of us, including his own party, should be ashamed today for having tolerated the pall of intolerance that has eventually gunned down this man. Today’s Pakistan is defined by Mumtaz Hussain Qadris. They exist all around us. And it is all of us who tolerate them and their intolerance. It is this tolerance of intolerance that kills.
- Worrying Signs for Pakistan's Future "The continued existence of the blasphemy laws, [Taseer's] assassination and the varying shades of reactions to his murder," Foreign Policy's Mosharraf Zaidi writes, " all point to a set of very deeply embedded structural problems within the Pakistani state and Pakistani society. ... It is a reminder that the realities of Pakistan in the New Year are stark and intimidating. " For example, "it is quite clear that some Pakistanis, those celebrating this kind of horrifying assassination, are fundamentally incapable of engaging with the rest of the rational world." He also worries about "the irrational and frankly un-Islamic voices of religious extremism that dominate religious discourse in the country."
- Will Pakistan Finally Confront Religious Extremists? So asks Foreign Policy's Imtiaz Gul. "Pakistani political parties must view the fact that Taseer was murdered by his own personal guard at such close range with caution and consider how long they can keep acquiescing to the demands of religiopolitical parties that, on the one hand, are part of the democratic process, but on the other, continue to defend contentious religious laws whose potential misuse continues to threaten the lives of Pakistanis--from the fieldworker Asia Bibi to the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer."
- On Twitter, Taseer Leaves Record of Fight Against Extremism The New York Times' Robert Mackey points out that, "through his frequently-updated Twitter feed, Mr. Taseer was a tireless combatant in Pakistan’s online culture war." Mackey painstakingly chronicles Taseer's papertrail of condemning "religious fanaticism," of praising and supporting the "Christian brothers and sisters all over Pakistan," of pledging to fight against persecution and religious extremism "Even if I’m the last man standing."