Paying the price: Silenced

Published: January 5, 2011
File picture dated 8 November 2010 shows Salmaan Taseer with Aasia Bibi during his visit to a prison in Sheikhupura. PHOTO: EPA

File picture dated 8 November 2010 shows Salmaan Taseer with Aasia Bibi during his visit to a prison in Sheikhupura. PHOTO: EPA

ISLAMABAD: Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who recently angered religious zealots with his statements against the controversial blasphemy laws, was assassinated by one of his own guards in an upmarket neighbourhood of Islamabad.

Salmaan Taseer was an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws which, rights groups say, are often exploited by extremists and commoners to settle personal scores. Taseer invited the wrath of hardline clerics after he called the laws “a slur on the constitution.”

Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed that Taseer was killed for his criticism of the blasphemy laws. He said the assassin bodyguard – Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri – had confessed to his crime and been arrested. “Salmaan Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer,” Qadri said in comments broadcast on television channels.

His hands and legs bound by nylon rope, the bearded Qadri  smiled confidently as he spoke to reporters from the back of a police van just after killing Taseer and surrendering.

The brazen broad daylight shooting occurred at the Kohsar Shopping Centre in Islamabad’s F6 Sector, just a short distance from where Taseer owned a home.A witness said Taseer was stepping out of his car when he was shot. “The governor fell down and the man who fired at him threw down his gun and raised both hands after shouting a slogan,” said the witness Ali Imran. However, a police official gave a different account. “Governor Taseer was not in his car. He had strolled to the restaurant with a friend for coffee. And he was shot dead while returning home,” the official told The Express Tribune.

“Taseer received 40 bullets of sub machinegun from a close range and he died within minutes,” another police official said. “Fourteen bullets pierced through his body and 26 remained inside,” added doctors at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) in the initial post-mortem report.

Police threw a security cordon around the area and detained five or more witnesses for questioning. The remaining members of Governor Taseer’s security squad – seven Elite Force commandos – were also detained.

“I heard gunshots and rushed out of a nearby restaurant where I was having lunch with a friend. I glimpsed the governor’s body lying on the road,” another witness Aly Khan said.

Officials say the high-profile murder will be thoroughly investigated, notwithstanding the assassin’s confession. “We will conduct a thorough investigation to know whether it was an individual act or someone else was behind it,” said interior minister Rehman Malik speaking in Karachi.

Qadri, who joined the Punjab police in 2002, volunteered for Governor Taseer’s security squad on Tuesday morning. “Qadri manipulated to join the squad,” a police official told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity. “The man in charge of the squad is also being questioned.”

Qadri told investigators that he had planned the assassination after Governor Taseer sided with Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy, and spoke against the blasphemy laws.

Recently, Taseer visited Aasia Bibi in prison in a campaign for her release. He wrote on his Twitter page last Friday: “I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”

Qadri’s father Malik Bashir, a carpenter by profession, and his four brothers have also been detained from Rawalpindi for interrogation.

Salmaan Taseer, a liberal and charismatic politician was one of the most moderate voices in the ruling PPP.

A dapper dresser with jet black hair, he embraced the media and modern technology, becoming one of the most prolific users of social media website Twitter as an outlet for his bold views.

The second high-profile political murder after Benazir Bhutto’s was denounced by government leaders and political parties. PM Gilani announced a three-day national mourning period.

“National flags will remain at half mast in the wake of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

A four-member team, headed by Deputy Inspector General of police (Operations) Bani Amin, has opened investigation. It has been asked to submit its report within 24 hours.

The PPP also suspended all political activities and announced two-week mourning for its slain leader. “On the directives of Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, all political activities have been suspended,” the party’s information secretary Fauzia Wahab told journalists at the Bilawal House in Karachi. “Salmaan Taseer was loyal to the party and we salute him for his services for democracy,” she added.

The Punjab government also condemned the killing and announced a public holiday in the province on Wednesday to mourn the tragedy. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif offered condolences to the PPP and Taseer’s family. (With additional input from wires)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Sonia
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:27AM

    We don’t understand the word ‘moderation’ and ‘liberalism’. Taseer’s death is another step forward to fanaticism and religiou extremism. So condolence for secular voices and congratulations to Islamic fanatics. I am hopeless about Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 7:43AM

    Salute to you, Salman Taseer! May you rest in peace! May the Mullah Monopoly gets to an end and may Allah bring all of us to some sanity. AmeenRecommend

  • faraz
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:50AM

    The killer belongs to the barelwi sect which is considered moderate! If this is the mindset of a moderate then God help Pakistan. Recommend

  • Ashwin
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:04AM

    what a tragedy and now i hear that some Pakistani condone it, with citizens like these who needs enemies. You guys just lost a saner voice of Pakistan, what is it with you guys why are so angry about?How many more Pakistani need to sacrificed before you feel content.totally screwed Recommend

  • Truth_Prevails
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:20AM

    Its bad…really bad.Recommend

  • Tanveer Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 9:37AM

    The incident of Salman saddened the majority of the nation for the inhumane act. This is not a tragedy because a governor of the province has been gunned down, but, because why don’t we learn form our past experiences. Who gave us this authority to take a life of human being.
    As Holy Quran says: “Who killed a single human being hence killed the whole humanity and who save the single life, saved the entire humanity”

    At the time of prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the women who throws dirt on him, while he was passing the street. Prophet (pbuh) never killed her for her unethical behaviour, but when she got sick he (pbuh) went to her home and took care of her and she embarce Islam, due to Prophet’s (PBUH) modest and outstanding behaviour.

    Its a moment of reckon to whole nation to comprehend true Islam, which teach us tolerance and peace. If someone have reservations he/she should consult, there is no shame in it.

    Its a high time to stood up, all theologians, academia, intellectual and pherhaps entire civil society to speak and restrict the misguided people. Our society, which was society of peace, tolerance, harmony and Love has been hijacked by ignorant people.

    we have to stand for it, let not them to preach wrong version of ISLAM.

    Don’t them to play with a country of our forefathers who scarified for it, ARE WE GIVING UP OUR MOTHERLAND AND FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN TO THEM, THINK, THINK FOR WHILE.Recommend

  • M. Naim Shaikh
    Jan 5, 2011 - 9:52AM

    Next Pakistan will enter book-burning phase or has it already occurred (Satanic Versis). He died for right reason and on right stand of history. Man may be many things to many people but by denoucing “blasephemy” law Taseer showed that deep down he was in the best mould of liberal-modernism and a true tolerant Punjabi, Pakistani. May God bless him and give wisdom to his friends to tackle this issue of blasephemy and not back out of it. Let’s see how brave Zardari is?Recommend

  • Shahryar+Ahmed
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:00AM

    Yesterday was a sad day for Pakistan (present & future). We lost a cultured, clean, & decent politician, family man & a human being.

    Although, I did not agree with his political affiliation, still I have & will always respect his views & him as a Pakistani Leader.

    Now I worry for my children growing up in Pakistan, unfortunately & feel ashamed to be a part f a nation of intolerant, illiterate & ill-informed (about the true Islamic teachings) fanatics.

    Thank you Jamat-E-Islami, Imran Khan, Nawaz Shariff & Co & all those so called intellectuals (islamic) for spreading hate, mis-information & intolerance.

    FYI, the current blasphemy Laws are not either part of Quran or Shariat, they were written by the real dictator (sponsor of Qazi Hussain Ahmad (JI) & Nawaz Shariff (the democrat)) & murderer of thousand of Palestinians (google/wikkipedia on Black September), none other than Zia-ul-Haq, the self proclaimed Mard-E-Momin. What a Joke!

    IN the end thank you media, for not highlighting the real facts on this draconian law & for inciting & romanticizing these Mullahs (idiots) & extremists in Pakistan.

    Thank you all of the above for pushing my children’s future in the dark.Recommend

  • Emad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:40AM

    Ina Lillahi wa inna elahi rajioon..Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 10:44AM

    “Qadri, who joined the Punjab police in 2002, volunteered for Governor Taseer’s security squad on Tuesday morning.”

    How can a guard just “volunteer” for a governor’s security squad while the governor was under security threats?Recommend

  • Sandy
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:56AM

    Very sad day for Pak and moderate civil society Recommend

  • Sankalp
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:02AM

    This is Insane. My condolences with the family of the bereaved. He was a man who stood undaunted for what he believed. Salaam.

    It wont be long before Pakistan would become a slave to its own hardline clerics and religious extremists. At this point of time, the least govt. can do is take a stand against the preachers of the blasphemy law and punish the culprits who are involved directly/indirectly in the assasination.Recommend

  • Samreen
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Im shocked at the comments Ive been reading so far about Salman Taseer. Lets not forget we are all human and make mistakes. I, myself, was not for the lifestyle he kept but Killing someone because one does not agree with his views, his lifestyle is inhumane and unforgivable to say the least.

    Islam is based on the premis of forgivness. In the end God will decide who was good and who was not it is not for US to go around killing people.

    This man, with all his flaws, stood ground on a matter that has plauged our country and society. That is commendable. While everyone else was trying to remain silent and save their skin, he risked his life and for that he will always be remembered.

    We the people of Pakistan need to accept that we are fighting a mindset that will eventually lead us to be just like Afghanistan (were already halfway there). WAKE UP.

    No one is saying start drinking, start walking around naked. All we need to pruport is TOLERANCE.Recommend

  • Conspiracy Tehreek
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:14AM

    Another killed in the name of God in the ‘Intolerant Republic of Pakistan’Recommend

  • Babar
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:14AM

    We need a Sallatin or Kamal Atta Turk to cleanse Pakistan of this Islamic menace.Recommend

  • A J Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:17AM

    Some of the hard learnt lessons of my life:
    1. Molvi and Islam are not competable with each other.
    2. Intolerance is “Kufar”
    May God bless Salman Taseer’s and may his departed soul rest in Jannah. Ameen. Recommend

  • Zuhair
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:34AM


  • Dr.Razi uddin Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:04PM

    Yes as muslim,if any other muslim dies we should say,”inna lillah e wa inna eleihe rajeoon”..and this is also so much true that,life of somebody sitting in some or the other kind of authority,is as valued as a life of common citizen.When we write so much in pain,the pain should be felt on each incidence with same intensity.
    And coming to cause of such horrifying incidence,one should always remember that if any one thinks himself above the law and the laws laid down on issues,only courts have the right to decide its legality or otherwise.On the other hand if any one starts interpreting laws in general or specificaly religious laws,than its not very difficult to anticipate the outcome!

    If people in some authority don’t respect the law and the rulings,then any one can take law in their hand and become a vigilante!!Recommend

  • Mubbashir
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:08PM

    Silenced for raising his voice.What a pity!Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:11PM

    Salman Taseer is the victum of INSTIGATION of MULLAH MEDIA ALLIANCE. There were so many channels which wrongly reported and instigated people. Salman Taseer was as good a Muslim as any of the self proclimed pious molve.
    It is the domain of God to reward and punish man for his deeds. Some how this domain is being infringed upon by the clerics. May God guide us all to the right path.Recommend

  • Neha Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:25PM

    I have lost hope for my beloved Pakistan. Recommend

  • Shoaib
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:11PM

    Pakistan has been digging its own grave for a while, this is yet another nail in its coffin. Religious extremism will spell disaster for this country and its people – these are the dark ages for the Muslim world.

    This is a country spawned in violence, and so it shall end in violence. I write these words with great regret.Recommend

  • Dinesh
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:17PM

    Why suddenly anyone blaming RAW or Mosad or CIA for this killing ?
    I really pity pakistan….Recommend

  • Malik
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:19PM

    An extremely well to do man dead and condemned for helping the weak, poor and helpless. He had nothing to gain from it and everything to loose still he stood.

    From his last show on Express at GCU with Kamran Shahid;

    “If I’m not going to stand on my consciences…who will?Recommend

  • karim
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:26PM

    salman taseer may his soul rest in peace ,,,,,,,,,salam national hero for ur brave and bold slogans,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Recommend

  • Hani
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:31PM

    All this happen because there is no rule and regulation in Pakistan

    and it happen again & agianRecommend

  • Bilal Ashraf
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:40PM

    Committing a crime against humanity by killing someone in cold blood and calling it a religious act is blasphemy itself.Recommend

  • Bilal Ashraf
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:44PM

    If you disagree w someone’s politics, does it give u right to be judge, jury & executioner? What role does rule of law play?Recommend

  • Ozone
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:19PM

    Another killed in the name of Allah,
    when we will learn to forgive in the name of Allah?Recommend

  • Kinzah Raffat
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:53PM

    Salman Taseer may no longer be with us but surely he has made his mark in this history. His death is NOT in vain! He may not be one of the best role models but lets face it, if a man has courage to air his opinions knowing he has written his own death sentence with it while others just skirt the issue. What people need to realise is that it is SIMPLY NOT OKAY to take lives. Our lives are to be reflection of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he never used violence as a means to avenge his opponents. He was, is and will be revered NEVER feared. Its time the law makers concentrate on taking actions on all laws detrimental to the society. Laws should be honoured NOT feared or abused. If democracy needs to flourish THAT is the ONLY way.

    Long Live Pakistan Recommend

  • Awais Kazimi
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:06PM

    Blasphemy Laws also exist in the countries who oppose its presence in Pakistan, e.g., in many countries of the world, same laws exist about “Holocaust” (which is just a coinage of Jews, let alone abusing their prophets). Why the hell you people don’t go and raise your voices against them.
    May be that the investigation process had flaws regarding Blasphemy law, but Mr. Governor’s very “candid” and clear comments declaring it a “Kala Qanoon” raised the anger among common people. This simply meant that “death sentence on blasphemy should be terminated”.
    Ok, please tell the nation that what should be done to a blasphemer in an Islamic Republic. Should people come out, hail and embrace the person who committed sacrilege OR the person should be prosecuted for this deliberate act?
    May be Mr. Governor meant to change the investigation process, but his words did not say this and people of Pakistan take such remarks as they are spoken, not what they could mean.
    If a person should be jailed for just sending joke on SMS about Mr. President, how a person should be treated who commits profane about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ?
    Hazrat Ali (R.A) searched out and killed a person during battle who had disgraced Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
    PPP government should talk about changing the investigation process, so that an innocent person should not suffer.
    Why on earth in non-muslim countries, all the implications of the term “freedom of expression” only mean disgracing honorable personalities in Islam? Why they prosecute a person for not taking care of his dog and let a person free who makes cartoons of Prophets and hurts feelings of billions of people?
    Moreover, conservative minded people also exist in non-muslim nations. Even the governments of countries like U.K and U.S are “racist” (just even apply for a visa and you will come to know). None of you bold speakers ever raised your voices about it.
    Blasphemy law is not just a matter of “Mullahism” in Pakistan, all the nation is sentimental about it. Any of the government official must consider his words first before speaking them out in public, and this is what happened in this case.
    In the end, I can only request government officials to be careful about using such words which can hurt people’s feelings.Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 4:21PM

    Will somebody put under scrutiny the police stations who register fake cases of murder, rape or blashemy. Those who register such cases should be punished. The properties of such police officers, lawyers and lower judiciary should be scrutinized and it will reveal these vultures feed on the miseries of innocent people.Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 7:03PM

    What a sorry state we are living in. We are killing people for having an opinion.Recommend

  • Gangly Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:17PM

    Sir, Brutal murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is a tragic and horrible incidence. It is an incidence for which police is responsible. Governor’s protection and security was duty of police guard escorting him. He was just like a ‘trust’ with the police escort but police guard breached that trust. Does Islam allow breach of trust? Blasphemy laws were made by a dictator and I think it is not a sin or offence to discuss or term man made laws as black laws? I stoutly condemn murder of the Governor. He was an upright person, honest and loyal to the nation. He spoke what he thought was correct for nation. I salute his courage. May God rest his soul in peace and give strength to members of the bereaved family.
    Gangly Khan
    Mandi BahauddinRecommend

  • disappointed Paki
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:45PM

    Sad day for Pakistan. Like one of the readers said — we now get killed for mere opinions. I guess you can’t survive being secular. Wahabisim is definitely one up on secularism in PakistanRecommend

    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:45PM

    Agree 100% with Awais Kazimi.Recommend

  • Daud Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:53PM

    We should accept the fact that we are living in country with 80% Taliban, The only difference is few are armed and most of them aren’t. Thanks to Zia ul Haq for still suffering from his left oversRecommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 1:09AM

    The eggs of Iblis (Mullahs) are hatchingRecommend

  • Cautious
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:23AM

    @Awais Kazimi Care to name any other country in the World that puts people to death for saying something that offends them? It’s time for Pakistan to eliminate the blasphemy laws and join the 21st Century. Recommend

  • Maha
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:36AM

    Salman Taseer may not be an ideal Muslim but a great human being. He showed bravery when noone had the courage to speak. May his soul rest in peace. He died for a cause but his death will not go in vain.Recommend

  • Crimson
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:41AM

    Pakistan is overrun by religious zealots. It is too late in the day to do anything about it now. The time to act was 10 years ago but your ‘thinkers’ were sleeping on the job. Religious fanaticism is now endemic and has trickled down to the common man. Hard to imagine that Pakistan can be a viable nation anymore. Sad but true after they had built a nation from virtually zero. The use of religious terrorists as a ‘strategic tool’ has led them down this path. Shocking lack of foresight. The only way is down from here. Some things cannot be undone – especially when religion is in the mix.Recommend

  • sultan
    Jan 6, 2011 - 3:49PM

    the personality who got real sympathy for human being is no more among us .May his soul rest in eternal peace.Allah almighty may be very glade to see such a remarkable sacrifice for the sake of human being without discriminating races.thanks God you taught us everything except TOLETANCERecommend

  • Hasan Z.
    Jan 6, 2011 - 8:04PM

    @ Cautious: The blasphemy law has its roots from the United Kingdom … which was in place from 13th Century and had many people beheaded for raising voice against the “Church of England”Recommend

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