A tribute to Salmaan Taseer

Published: May 30, 2013
The writer is a Singapore-based Jewellery designer and daughter of the late governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer

The writer is a Singapore-based Jewellery designer and daughter of the late governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer

I am very fortunate to have had Salmaan Taseer as my father. Although he is now at rest, I have found peace in knowing that his legacy will be etched indelibly in the history of Pakistan — a country he loved dearly enough to give his life for. His bold voice of truth, justice and sanity will forever resonate in the minds of millions. No bullets can erase his example and courage.

Salmaan Taseer was a man of diverse interests and talents. He lived his life passionately and zestfully with one overriding condition — anything worth doing, must be done well. Unflinching and determined, he believed in excellence and accepted nothing less from himself and those around him. He had an innate ability to sift through the fuzziness of any situation and get to the key issues poignantly. His wit was razor sharp and he would skilfully use humour to bring out the focal points in any discussion, analyse it before most had hardly registered it!

My father was also a true romantic at heart. He loved poetry, music, and stories — tales of great love, tragedy, heroism, legends of martyrdom and songs that touched the heart. He grew up in a literary home: his father MD Taseer, a well-known educationalist and poet, and his uncle, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, served as mentors. Unsurprisingly, he developed a passion for Urdu poetry; especially couplets that could make you shed tears.

He was a man who relished all emotions life had to offer and lived his life to full capacity in almost every way. I marvelled at his ability to connect with a wide range of people — young and old, from varying backgrounds. It was his keen interest in people that resulted in voracious readings of autobiographies, as he hungered to learn from the successes of great men and women. This interest was also the basis for his love for politics and he never tired of engaging with people.

My father was also an optimist — he never spent time wallowing in self-pity or bemoaning negative events in his life. Quite the opposite, he was vibrantly positive, ready to take on what life brought to him and upbeat even during difficult times. He pulled those around him along for the rides of their lives.

As his eldest child, I consider myself privileged to have had him as a guide and role model. My memories of my upbringing are filled with his words and actions, a towering presence that was kind, gentle and staunchly protective, yet strong and persevering. From my earliest memories, I recall his strong interest in my development and education, and he was delighted when I earned an honours degree at the London School of Economics. He also always encouraged my hobbies – for example, when I was 13, seeing my passion and interest in cooking, he arranged to have a small kitchen built for me.

My father was a purely self-made man, determined to succeed from a young age. Early on in life, he had to take on the responsibility of his family since his own father died when he was only six. At 16, he landed on the shores of Britain with many hopes and dreams but few resources. He started his articleship in accountancy, working during the day and studying by night, sometimes only having the money to buy bars of English chocolate for dinner. He qualified as an accountant and upon his return to the East, rapidly established an accounting firm partnering with the KPMG in the UAE and Pakistan in the 1970s — today, KPMG Taseer Hadi is one of the leading accounting firms in Pakistan.

However, his true love was politics and he always yearned to serve his country. As a young student, he developed a great admiration for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and joined his party, whilst in his twenties. His association with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would last for the rest of his life-time. Growing up as a young girl, I remember my grandmother and mother typing and retyping manuscripts of the biography my father wrote on Bhutto. One of the darkest times I can remember in my childhood was the day Bhutto Sahib was executed; our home was in mourning for days.

My father soon sold his successful accountancy business and joined politics in his thirties. As a steadfast opponent of military dictatorships, he campaigned tirelessly with the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy.

At the age of 50, my father left politics to start a business. Politics had drained his resources, and he needed to establish financial security. When it came to business, he was a visionary and a true entrepreneur. Having myself just returned from college, I worked with my father to set up First Capital Securities. Within months, we had outgrown our newly-refurbished offices on Davis road in Lahore, and foreign investors had taken a stake in the company. It was always difficult to keep pace with him. During the early days of business in Karachi, I remember he used to call me at 6:30am every morning to plan for the day. I had to work hard to meet his expectation. In business, he was hard to please — he was a task master with giant expectations. The more you did, the more he gave you to do — just as he set high standards for himself, he expected others to also push themselves to achieve. At that stage of life, I loved the challenges he gave me and, of course, it was a great learning process. He never shied from exploring new possibilities or giving responsibility to young people and was willing to take risks provided he could see the potential rewards. He built teams and was a natural leader, with those around him hankering to be a part of his vision for the future. He went on to lay down the first cable networks in Pakistan, was a pioneer in mobile communications, and started investment and insurance companies. He built newspapers, shopping malls, real estate companies and art galleries. Even though he had the Midas touch, he felt that there was something missing in his life.

With President Asif Ali Zardari assuming office in 2008, the PPP Government asked him to become governor of Punjab. He was delighted with this appointment, realising a lifetime personal ambition. Despite all the years of building his business, I knew he was happiest playing a role in politics in Pakistan. My father once told a dear journalist friend of mine Moni Mohsin, that even though knowledge, strategy and prowess were necessary components of life’s success, luck also played an important part.  My father used to say that when Napoleon chose his soldiers, he is said to have asked them if they felt ‘lucky’, using that as a final selection criteria. He knew battles were won in the mind far earlier than in the battlefield. My father knew, and was confident he could always succeed in business, but did not always have that faith when it came to politics. He felt luck may not always be on his side.

In the end, he was aware of the risks, but was unwavering in his pursuit of justice and speaking his mind for the betterment of a secular Pakistan. He stood firmly for what he believed in to the very end, knowing that luck may one day let go of his hand.

He told me a week before he was assassinated that if he, as a person of privilege, shied away from speaking for justice, who then, would have the courage to speak up. He believed that in life, a person is known by the weak person’s hand he holds, not by the strong ones he lean on.

I am consoled in knowing that his legacy is one of bravery and justice and that his ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten. I am lucky to have Salmaan Taseer as my father and Pakistan is lucky to have had him as her child.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2013.                    

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Reader Comments (39)

  • shany
    May 31, 2013 - 12:04AM

    Only the true political shaheed among all PPPs


  • Jawaid
    May 31, 2013 - 12:18AM

    I am an MQM supporter, and I always respected Salman Taseer, and so did many MQM workers and supporters. He was a moderate force, who worked for the unison of all Pakistanis. May Allah bless his soul.


  • Usman S.
    May 31, 2013 - 12:20AM

    Late Salman Taseer was indeed a very smart, bold, hard-working man who indeed loved life to the fullest and was not afraid of standing up against injustice.
    His death was tragic and indeed a great loss to the country, his family, friends and admirers.
    RIP Salman. You will always be remembered.


  • Mumtaz Butt
    May 31, 2013 - 2:16AM

    I was fortunate to have worked in KPMG Taseer Hadi, Lahore office, when he had just come back from Abu Dhabi. He was indeed a very bold and courageous man, but more than that he was very principled, did not know what was ‘political correctness’ he said things the way he saw them, and not how they should be said. May Allah grant him eternal peace and keep his family safe – Ameen.


  • Uza Syed
    May 31, 2013 - 3:08AM

    Great tribute from a daughter to a true hero. Salman Taseer was surely a man of courage and one of the greatest and bravest sons Pakistan ever produced and must be proud of. We all must be grateful for his great sacrifice of his life. A gave his life for a principle that should be an example for us all and his legacy worth our admiration and something to emulate. Thank you for sharing Sara, your father must be a happy man to read what you have to say.


  • Asad Shairani
    May 31, 2013 - 3:40AM

    Didn’t like his politics – but he deserves applause for his gutsy stance in this crazy country.


  • Mirza
    May 31, 2013 - 4:00AM

    A very moving Op Ed by the daughter of Pakistan. I am surprised that like S. Taseer his kids are also true servants of Pakistan. Ordinary mortals would have moved away from Pakistan and many do after the kind of horrific experience that this family went through but not ST’s family. Beti I am sorry and ashamed of what we did to your father. Hopefully his sacrifices are not going to go in vain. What a great family for several generations!


  • Riaz Khan
    May 31, 2013 - 5:40AM

    I had the honor and pleasure of meeting him in his office in Lahore and every few minutes he would be watching Business Plus on TV placed in his office. Had a nice coffee in his office. Truly a remarkable man. People like him are born very rarely in Pakistan.


  • Zulfiqar Ali
    May 31, 2013 - 6:08AM

    What i can say to pay him tribute is simply “No bullets can erase his example and courage.”
    long live struggle! Long Live Dear SALMAN TASEER!.


  • Riz
    May 31, 2013 - 8:59AM

    Sir Salman Taseer was a man of vision. He was modern, traditional, ready-wit, eloquent and a high-profiled legend in Pakistan. My dad was his ardent fan, and he used to tell me about him. I had visited his Dailytimes office in Lahore to offer myself as a journalist, 15 year ago i guess.
    A peaceful, down-to-earth-great man!


  • Mujtaba
    May 31, 2013 - 9:32AM

    I am a mqm voter and i want to say LOVE U SALMAN TASEER on behalf of entire mqm. We loved u, will always love u. You were the bravest man we have ever seen. Jiye Taseer!


  • Mir Taqi
    May 31, 2013 - 9:48AM

    Very well written article. Salman Taseer was indeed a face of secular and moderate Pakistan. May his soul rest in peace.


  • Jaffer Abbas Mirza
    May 31, 2013 - 9:58AM

    We need more people like the great Salman Taseer. RIPRecommend

  • Usman
    May 31, 2013 - 10:15AM

    A great man indeed! One of the best Pakistan has produced


  • Aneela
    May 31, 2013 - 10:18AM

    Beautiful memoir. Truly sorry for your loss, but admire your courage in still writing about him and not letting his memory die. What happened with him was terrible, but I am sure he will still remain a hero in the minds of many people


  • S
    May 31, 2013 - 11:15AM

    Working under Zardari was probably the only unwise thing he ever did.


  • Rao Amjad Ali
    May 31, 2013 - 11:28AM

    My condolences! Indeed, a man of enormous moral courage, insightful and worked extremely hard with razor sharp focus. May Allah rest his soul in peace in Heaven. Amin


  • Fawzia
    May 31, 2013 - 11:59AM

    I never knew him and I never knew of him until he took the stance for the underprivledged and was cut down for it. In my mind, Salman Taseer will always remain the voice of the silenced (people). I am proud for the strength he showed and I am ashamed for the treatment he was meted out with but I will remember and I will pray that he is given a comfortable abode whereever he may be. May Allah give you and your family the strength to bear this loss every day and may we all strive to be the force he was. Jazakallah.


  • Feroz
    May 31, 2013 - 12:24PM

    Sorry Sara, you had the right father, but in the wrong country.


  • Miss Piggy
    May 31, 2013 - 12:54PM

    Come on Sara. Tell us a bit more about how ABN Amro got screwed by investing in First Capital…


  • Obaid A Dogar
    May 31, 2013 - 1:31PM

    Having worked briefly with ST in WorldCall – i know he was a hard working visionary strategist.
    He was a moderate/secular voice in politics and would have been a key player if he were still around. May his soul rest in peace.


  • Jason Hollier
    May 31, 2013 - 2:06PM

    Everyday I seethe at the knowledge that while a good man lies dead an absolute villain lives on. A nasty piece of work who shot the man he had sworn to defend.


  • Dr. Hamza Islam
    May 31, 2013 - 2:23PM

    Truth + Courage + love = Salman Taseer


  • mrs ahmed
    May 31, 2013 - 3:06PM

    thanks for speaking for MQM supporters , yes MQM is all what is libralism , secularism progress stands for the only forward looking party , remains in Paksitan , pls explain to PTi pople in karachi they are running after a hypocrite , who agreed on no women vote up in the north , always double standereds , shedding tears for drones but no words of comfirt forinnocents death in cities list goes on


  • Kamran ALy Abuzar
    May 31, 2013 - 3:21PM

    I even weeped on his death… He was such a courageous and truthful man!


  • Lubna Thomas Benjamin
    May 31, 2013 - 3:46PM

    Sara, you are a daughter of a brave father, who had the guts and vigor to raise voice for the neglected and depressed.
    Your words are extremely touching. May God give you and your family the strength to bear such a great loss.


  • Siddharth Pandey
    May 31, 2013 - 4:19PM

    Deeply hurt and truly sorry for the loss of your father. The loss of Salman Taseer has left South Asia and not just Pakistan as a poorer place. Gandhi used to say its not enough to be Secular, a person has to be anti-communal. As a keen Pakistan watcher i could barely believe the news that day. As an Indian we are not immune to assassinations having lost two Prime Ministers to the bullet, but the way the heartless, mindless, ruthless murderer of Taseer Sahab was greeted and congratulated and given a rose petal welcome to the court by lawyers and people of his bent of mind was by far the most horrific scene to have come out of Pakistan in recent times. Secularists in Pakistan really have a battle on their hands!!! As a well wisher of Pakistan i wish my friends all the best and sign of ironically with the national motto of India, Satyamev Jayate (truth alone triumphs) The victory will be yours.


  • Anas
    May 31, 2013 - 4:26PM

    I was never a PPP supporter; their corruption and misgovernance has wrecked our country. However, I always respected Salman Taseer; he had a clean reputation and always spoke out. His color will be missed.


  • sars
    May 31, 2013 - 5:12PM

    Your dad is a shaheed because he was unafraid to speak out against oppression of weaker members of his constituency, that is a great honour.


  • zzz
    May 31, 2013 - 5:38PM

    love Urdu but do English that’s what south Asian are hahahahah


  • sensible
    May 31, 2013 - 7:57PM

    why we always think that someone who got killed or murdered was a great man. Be realistic and stop being emotional fools!


  • Hasan
    May 31, 2013 - 8:38PM

    In a country of moral pygmies, Salman taseer will always stand tall even in death. It is a testament to the moral bankcrupcy of the Pakistani people that he is not hailed as one of the few true heros they have produced.


  • Optimist
    May 31, 2013 - 10:21PM

    As a PML N supporter, I must accept that Shaheed Salman Taseer was one of the very few leaders in PPP that had courage.
    Salute to him. I hope Mian Nawaz Shareef will publicly acknowledge Salman Taseer’s greatness. This will strenghten the forces of moderation


  • Parvez
    May 31, 2013 - 10:51PM

    A fitting tribute from a daughter to her father.
    The one aspect that I could not understand was that he was among the original lot of PPP ideologues and then distanced himself, did very well in business and decided to rejoin the PPP when the original vision was dead and the prevalent culture was anything but kosher.
    His principled stand on the blasphemy issue that cost him his life, I think, is a true definition of what Salman Taseer as a man was all about……..I salute him for this.


  • Mansura Minhas
    Jun 1, 2013 - 6:34AM

    Thank you Sara for the heartwarming and beautiful tribute. Your dad was a rare breed in Pakistan’s politics. No amount of words can describe his insurmountable courage. He obviously knew the risk when he set out to defend a poor woman, yet his conviction and zeal for justice outweighed. Only if other politicians could dare to emulate his character…. but that borders on wishful thinking. They lack the sagacity, guts and vision that is direly needed for Pakistan’s turnaround. Salman Taseer was a personification of unwavering valor and a man true to his words. His last words still echo in my mind…even if I am the last man standing….and he literally lived those words. May his soul rest in peace, may Allah protect your family and safeguard you from the evil forces. Ameen


  • abc
    Jun 1, 2013 - 6:16PM

    Your father gave his life defending the rights of a poor, oppressed woman – in every sense of the word, he is a Shaheed.


  • Jun 2, 2013 - 2:21PM

    The death of your father confirms that a person who has guts to speak truth and fight for justice has no place in this country ruled by criminal gangs, elected by criminals, preached by criminals, Just watch how Pakistan slowly slides into a black hole.


  • Jun 2, 2013 - 9:51PM

    We were glad to had a leader like salman taseer sahib in our nation,, a true visionary and brave person he was ,, who stood for the justice and truth without having any fear of death,, May allah bless his soul with the highest place in Janna, Amen


  • Eddied
    Jul 22, 2013 - 6:48PM

    Sara, I Live over 10,000 miles away in a different country and I had great respect for your Dad…rarely does a man of his courage exist on the political scene…his passing was a large step backward for Pakistan and a major loss for your country..from which it has yet to recover…hopefully some day another person will step up to the cause that your father fought for and continue the work that he started..it still needs to be done…


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