KARACHI: While Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has taken a strong stand about the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and the rights of minorities, PPP leaders and members of the cabinet have avoided discussion on Taseer’s stance about the blasphemy law.
Even though the assassin confessed he had killed Taseer for his opposition to the blasphemy law, Law Minister Babar Awan said his murder had no religious motivations. Other party leaders have called it a ‘political murder’.
Hours after Bilawal’s speech, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani reiterated that the government would not be amending the blasphemy law.
On Tuesday, Taseer’s daughter Shehrbano Taseer wrote in the Guardian, “The ruling party – my father’s party – continues to equivocate,” when it comes to the blasphemy law. PPP’s manifesto for the 2008 election states, “The statutes that discriminate against religious minorities and are sources of communal disharmony, will be reviewed.”
After religious groups began campaigning against pardoning Aasia Bibi or amending the blasphemy law, the government backed down. It has attempted to appease religious political parties, such as former ally Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl, by declaring that it had no plans to amend or strike down the law.
The PPP disassociated itself from Taseer’s support of Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy, and MNA Sherry Rehman’s private member bill proposing amendments to the blasphemy law. Interior Minister Rehman Malik reportedly told Rehman that her life is in danger and she should leave the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2011.