ISLAMABAD: A candle-lit vigil and prayer was organised at Kohsar Market on Sunday to commemorate the fourth death anniversary of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
A side of the pavement where Taseer was gunned down — by his own guard, Mumtaz Qadri, on January 4, 2011, — was illuminated with candles, oil lamps and adorned with bouquets and rose petals. A framed portrait of Taseer glowed at the centre.
Taseer’s son, Shaan, was accompanied by his family and members of civil society at the occasion. They held placards and chanted slogans calling for Qadri’s execution, handed down to him by an anti-terrorism court in 2011, and for repealing the blasphemy law.
They condemned the extremist mindset that supported the notion of killing humanity in the name of religion and also urged for nationalisation of religious seminaries.
Shaan said the onset of the new year brought the prospect of a progressive and enlightened Pakistan, which was secular and followed the ideals of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz as opposed to extremists like Maulana Abdul Aziz, whose non-bailable arrest warrants have been issued and is yet ‘untouchable’.
“Where is the establishment?” questioned Romano Karim, an activist at the vigil. “Is there a single public servant here today? Where are they and why are they not here. The only government servants with us here today are the police,” he said.
Renowned educationist and intellectual Pervez Hoodbhoy said Taseer had sacrificed his life fighting the blasphemy law, which has been traditionally used as a tool against minorities since the time of former president Gen Ziaul Haq. “However, only non-Muslims were not affected by this law, but it also claimed the lives of many Muslims as well. We pledge to fight against it till the very end,” he said.
Naeem Mirza said Taseer’s sacrifice had not gone in vain, but transpired into a resounding chorus despite hypocrisy and double standards of the ruling government.
“This is not a struggle of numbers, but of an ideology and truth. We should follow the path of the likes of Jibran Nasir, who are determined, courageous and uncompromising and they have exposed the forces which support the extremist mindset.” He added that it was a defining moment to separate religion from state.
“We want a Pakistan of artists, poets and peace-lovers. If we can hold vigils outside the Red Mosque against those who are unwilling to change their radical stance, then we can also protest outside the media channels which are bent upon propagating that mindset,” said Alia Malik.
Sumera Ishaq, a young protester, said Zia’s ideology had hit her generation the worst, adding that the coming generations should not have to tolerate his ideologies. Moreover, the speakers condemned the attack on a similar vigil in Lahore, urging the govt to bring the culprits to task.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2014.
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