Salmaan Taseer’s killing: ‘Political’ murder?

Published: January 6, 2011

Slain governor Salmaan Taseer received a state funeral in Lahore. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE/KARACHI: The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has declared the killing of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer a “political murder” timed to occur during a serious political crisis threatening the embattled government.

Taseer, 66, was shot dead outside a café in Islamabad on Tuesday by one of his own security guards incensed by his statements against the controversial blasphemy laws.

It was a political murder, and it did not have any religious motivation, Law Minister Babar Awan, the most vocal cabinet member of the PPP, told journalists outside Taseer’s residence in Lahore. He demanded that the Punjab government unearth the “real motives” and expose “the real culprits.”

Awan also pointed to, what he called, “serious lapses” in Taseer’s security. He said the assassin guard – Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri – was assigned the duty notwithstanding a police special branch report which declared him unfit for the security of VVIPs. Awan faulted the Punjab government but said he was not blaming it for the murder.

The ruling PPP is scrambling to survive after two of its major coalition partners – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) – defected to the opposition last month. The law minister said that Taseer’s assassination was, in fact, an attempt to derail the democratic process and his party’s government.

Salmaan Taseer, a liberal politician close to President Asif Ali Zardari, was one of the most outspoken voices against religious extremism. Nonetheless, Awan said his murder was not motivated by religious fanaticism. Taseer was a political figure and he did not have differences with anyone, he added.

The minister said that, in a way, it was also a custodial murder because the Punjab  government was responsible for Taseer’s security and it had failed to follow standard operating procedures.

While Awan was accentuating the political connotation of Taseer’s killing, President Asif Zardari said it was yet to be established that the murder was part of some broader conspiracy against the democratic system.

Speaking to PPP lawmakers at the Bilawal House in Karachi, Zardari said the real planners would be unmasked after investigations. He called Taseer’s murder “a great tragedy” and a “huge loss” for the PPP and vowed to convert it into strength for the party.

Rights groups have been calling for amending or repealing the blasphemy laws which they say are often exploited by religious conservatives as well as ordinary people to settle personal scores. But hard-line religious parties are strongly opposed to any changes in the controversial statute.

The fragile government of the PPP is walking a tight-rope on the issue making sure it does not offend the powerful religious right and ultimately lose vital support in the next election.

Religious parties have directed their wrath at the PPP, which, they believe, wants to amend or repeal the blasphemy laws. The party now feels it imperative to quash this perception. And the job has been assigned to Babar Awan, sources told The Express Tribune.

As a part of its strategy to defuse the situation, the PPP high command has decided to drag Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his Law Minister Rana Sanaullah into Governor Taseer’s murder to give it a political colour, the sources added.

Earlier, Salmaan Taseer was buried with state honour at Lahore’s Cavalry Ground Graveyard, also known as Shuhada Qabristan (the graveyard of martyrs). Thousands of people attended the funeral, braving tight security and defying threats from religious conservatives.

Some religious scholars had warned that anyone who expresses grief over the assassination could suffer the same fate.

Draped in the national flag, Taseer’s coffin was buried by his sons Shaheryar, Shahbaz and Shaan Taseer, as relatives looked on. A contingent of the Punjab police presented a guard of honour.

Attendees at the funeral included Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, some of his cabinet members, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Senate Chairperson Farooq H Naek and provincial ministers from Punjab. A number of leaders from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Q-League and other political parties, senior bureaucrats and a large number of civil society members and rights activists were also in attendance.

Taseer’s soyem will be held at the Punjab Governor House at 2pm on Thursday, January 6.

(With additional reporting by HAYAT UMAR & RANA TANVEER)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • J.Oberoi
    Jan 6, 2011 - 7:34AM

    The killer being greeted with roses is appalling and a total disgrace. Pictures of the killer being offered roses is being plastered all over the world. Why do the security personnel allow this to happen? How come people are allowed so close in the vicinity of the murderer??Recommend

  • lehumanist
    Jan 6, 2011 - 9:00AM

    This shows the sickening, clinically insane state of of mind of religious groups in Pakistan. Prophet Mohammed [PBUH) himself predicted that a time would come when the so called religious stalwarts AKA Pakistani Mullahs likes along with their pathetic followers will be worse than the animals. There will be mosques packed with people but devoid of true devotion to Allah. And our country reeks with these animals’ filth. This bankruptcy of ideas, this state of remarkable ignorance combined with bestial religiosity with blood dripping all over it is what characterizes Pakistan. The bastion of religious malcontent which originated from the Pakistani borders with Afghanistan and now so pervasive in urban areas that any dissent to a narrow and vulgar version of Islam is crushed like Salman Taseer murder. May Allah have mercy on us.Recommend

  • amjad farooq
    Jan 6, 2011 - 9:50AM

    the politicians & the media are too scared to speak about the truth,they can’t bring themselves to discuss the root cause of this crime:religous terrorism.
    It’s much much easier for everyone to try to divert attention to someone else,the ppp is trying to gain political mileage out of this incident by trying to make it into a political issue,because it’s too scared to take on the religous fanatics in its ranks.
    The tv anchors should have the guts to condemn this religous extremist mentality without qualifying it or providing excuses for it. Recommend

  • MM
    Jan 6, 2011 - 9:59AM

    Islamic parties must take this into consideration that Islam has always given the lesson of peace and patience. They must think in positive manner how to resolve the blasphemy problem . We all are Muslims and it is our moral duty to preserve the prosperity of ISLAM but at the same time we must not take decisions randomly . We must have to consider the pros and cons of the blasphemy law. And we have to find out the middle way of the problem.

    Josh mei Hosh nahi khona chahyeRecommend

  • MAD
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:21AM

    So now they are changing the dierction of teh case and needlessly dragging in the Punjab government because the PPP wishes to defuse the situation and not take on the religious parties head on. Governor Taseer it seems your sacrifice will go down in vain thanks to your own party.Recommend

  • abdullah
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:50AM

    this is so disgusting that after his death they have started throwing the matter on punjab gov ..the motive behind the killing is very clear ..babar awan should stop using his murder for a political benefit .this shows what value does a ppp member has…it was also sad to see ppl saying JEY BHUTTO even though salman had passed away .never understood this concept..we should be pakistanis and should not divide ourselves according to partiesRecommend

  • Ben
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:13AM

    The actual thing which disturbs rational minds is not whether the crime was political or a result of extremists thinking, it is more disturbing because the crime is being glorified and the killer being given hero’s treatment. Read more at: link textRecommend

  • Crimson
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:24AM

    The face of the smiling murderer is the face of pure evil. To think that he uses religion as a garb to justify his blood-lust sends chills down the spine. How many more such people are there in Pakistan? You wonder if this is the norm or just an exception. Such callous disregard for the sanctity of life !!Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    Jan 6, 2011 - 11:41AM

    Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.The present government is just exaggerating by coloring Salman Taseer’s murder as politically motivated scene.When the assassin is clearly confessing his crime and saying that he killed Salman Taseer just for supporting a christian blasphemer woman then why the present leaders are creating a political drama and blaming and accusing Punjab government of this murder?Recommend

  • Dr.Razi uddin Khan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:15PM

    Thank you Awan saab!!quite a disclosure…you are in same shoes as federal l minister for interior,who finds the head of suicide bomber while on way to scene of any blast!!
    But we are still waiting for BB’S murder probe and culprits,so how could you start any presumption about salman taseer’s killing…or do you know something we don’t know?
    please let the law take its time to probe…but then again you are just the law minister!how could you know about legal proceedings?!Recommend

  • Amer
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:18PM

    The PPP is using his murder to score their own political points, it’s such a disgust to see this happening now but then again who am I kidding! Mr. Taseer was a Zardari crony and he would have loved to play this out as a political murder himself! What a waste! Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 12:32PM

    now a day we are living in special circumstance and it need special precaution . It is not better for our nation to settle this issue now we must took our time at lest 5 to 8 years . Then issue will settle on merit otherwise every wise voice to be consider pro liberal or pro west or anti Islam . 5 or 10 year not much in the nation history . It is good move by ppp to call this murder ” a political murder ” which divert issue from religion to political other wise a new crisis will start and religions parties are ready to cash this murder and they are ready to exploit the ” act of qadri ” he is already become ” a hero ” and God known in next election sunni itthed may take 30 to 40 seat in NA in next election and then it is difficult to tackle them . so friends keep cool linger on this issue and try to divert this issue and do not go for immediate justice . Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:42PM

    “Mr. Taseer’s death will serve as a chilling warning to any politician who speaks out against the religious parties and their agenda”.

    “Now things are becoming clearer and more understandable. We should forgive those journalists, TV anchors and political leaders who support or avoid opposing and condemning extremists. They have a very genuine reason to live in hypocrisy. Someone who dared to oppose extremism, had to pay the price with his own life; a price for being forthright, honest, bold and outspoken. In spite of his failings and weaknesses as a human, he went down fighting a menace Pakistan has created itself. Punjab’s slain governor Salman Taseer had refused to accept that Pakistani society is no more a society of rational people;
    ” You must bow down to them or get perished”.
    These words of “Financial Management” magzine truely represents the situation in PakistanRecommend

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