What you do is who you are.
Three years ago, the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his police bodyguard ignited fresh debate on the extent to which the security forces of the country have been radicalised.
That debate continues, and in fact looked more pronounced at the third anniversary of the incident. Citizens and civil society groups paid tribute to Taseer in Kohsar Market at the site of his assassination by Mumtaz Qadri, while in Rawalpindi, Qadri’s supporters gathered to demand a presidential pardon for the death-row convict.
A vigil in Kohsar Market saw people from all walks of life light candles and place flowers to pay tribute to Taseer’s courageous efforts to raise his voice for minority groups.
They demanded that the government make the necessary amendments to the constitution to give religious minorities the same set of rights, privileges and duties as Muslims. They also demanded that the killer’s sentence be carried out to set a precedent against vigilantism and ensure that no one in future dares defy their sworn oath as officers of the law.
In 2008, Taseer — a respected accountant and businessman — was appointed the 26th governor of Punjab, a position he held till his assassination. Qadri who confessed to the murder has been sentenced to death by an anti terrorism court.
Taseer’s son Shaan Taseer said, “my father died for a great cause and we do not want this cause to end here. We will take it forward to try and save the lives of many innocent who are being killed in the name of religion.”
He said Asia Bibi should not be forgotten and there is a need to make all-out efforts to get her justice.
Poet and columnist Harris Khalique termed the assassination of Salman Taseer a watershed event in the social history of Pakistan.”Lines were sharply drawn between those who became tolerant, pluralistic and inclusive for Pakistan and those who stand for bigotry, oppression and marginalising minorities,” he said.
He said that the references Muhammad Ali Jinnah made to freedom of religion in an August 11, 1947 speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan should be implemented. He also read a poem to pay tribute to his father and Asia Bibi.
Safdar Saeed, an admirer of the slain governor, said, “He was a great man who stood for a great cause and we need more people in the country who can raise their voices for the rights of minorities.”
Pakistan People’s Party Human Rights Wing Secretary General Sheikh Mansoor said that “such cowardly acts” are defaming Pakistan around the word. He said that in Pakistan everyone irrespective of his caste, creed, religion and sect should be treated equally and have equal rights.
“From next year, on January 4 and August 11, we will gather annually in front of Parliament until the amendments in the constitution necessary to safeguard the rights of the minorities are made,” he said.
In Rawalpindi, supporters of Mumtaz Qadri Saturday took out a rally to express solidarity with him and demanded his release.
Two rallies — one from Amina Masjid and one form Jamia Rizvia Zia-ul-Islam, gathered at Chandni Chowk and marched towards Adiala Jail in various vehicles.
Participants were carrying banners and pictures of Qadri. During the rally, traffic remained jammed on Benazir Bhutto Road and other adjacent roads, causing problems for motorists. When the rally got near Adila Jail — where Qadri is being held — traffic was brought to a standstill.
Addressing the rally, Allama Hanif Qureshi, Haseenud Shah, Sarwat Ijaz Qadri and others urged the President of Pakistan to pardon and release Qadri.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2014.