KARACHI: Personalities condemning former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination and speaking out against the controversial blasphemy law are being threatened for voicing their views, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who made a strongly-worded speech in London this week, is among those being ‘condemned’. “To those who are praising or justifying these crimes, I say: you along with the killers of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer are the real blasphemers,” Bilawal had said in his speech.
A posting on a jihadi forum responded: “This defender of the blasphemer must be the next target.”Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti told AFP in an interview that fatwas have been issued calling for him to be beheaded. “During the Aasia Bibi case, I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer … these messages are coming to me even publicly,” he said. “The government should register cases against all those using hate speech.”
According to a report in Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, the chief of the PPP’s ulema wing who led Taseer’s funeral prayers after other clerics reportedly refused to do so, has gone into hiding.
A report in English daily Pakistan Today quoted a Punjab-based leader of the Sunni Tehreek (ST) warning Shehrbano Taseer, the late governor’s daughter, about issuing statements against Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri who has confessed to assassinating her father. But, when contacted, a representative sought to distance ST from the comments. “That leader may have said something in his individual capacity, however, our central leadership pursues no such policy,” the representative told The Express Tribune.
Earlier this week, leaders of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat pointed to an opinion piece by Shehrbano Taseer in The New York Times as “evidence of her views”.
Member of the National Assembly Sherry Rehman, who belongs to the PPP, has consistently been targeted.
Religious groups and political parties have called on the government to make Rehman withdraw the private member bill proposing amendments to the blasphemy law that she submitted in the National Assembly. A flyer distributed in Karachi by Tanzeem-e-Islami claimed that Rehman and Bhatti had “provoked the religious honour of Pakistan’s Muslims”.
The government has said that it will provide security to Taseer’s family and as well as to Rehman.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Wednesday, expressing its concern over her security. The statement quoted Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator as saying: “Rehman’s life straddles the worlds of journalism and politics like few others in Pakistan. Even with the government’s increased protection, she remains at great risk, and we remain greatly concerned about the safety of (a) colleague.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2011.
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