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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Aftermath of Salman Tasser’s killing: Another Christian family on the run


What has terrorised this country more than anything is a lethal excuse used against weak and powerless people mostly from minority groups. Blasphemy is a word on everyone’s lips and that has given sleepless nights to all Christians, Ahmadis and now Muslims too. The assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, has exposed the fragile edifice of this society truly based on misuse of religion. The response of people to Salman’s killer has blown the minds who hoped for some maturity from the people of this country. But his is the country where I have seen heroes becoming villains and villains becoming heroes.

Salman’s killing has strengthened the evil forces which have been misusing religion to commit crimes, seek authority and fulfill their vicious plans. Unfortunately, the current government run by PPP–supposed to be a liberal party– has scummed to the blackmailing done in the name of religion also by the religious political parties. The same party has isolated its key member, Salman, and let him killed by a fanatic. The same fanatic has deepened the divide in the society and encouraged others to play with the same excuse to gain some fame.

The story of this Cristian woman (read below) is a proof that Pakistan was never meant for non Muslims. The white portion in the flag was what we buried with the founder of this country who thought of a secular state.

These fanatics are exploiting blasphemy and taking the law in their hands. But we never hear of any suo moto action by our Chief Justice who take it almost every day on every other issue. Here we find him silent. When the writ of the government is challenged by these people then the government hides behind the religion. When they humiliate women in front of the whole world, the police like to be among the audience. The mob mentality is what has scared the people who intend to help those being victimised.

Now where do we stand? Is this a country only for Muslims and among Muslims only those who follow a certain type of Islam which is unknown to us? Is any religion bigger than humanity and a human life? Who has given them this right to hijack Islam? Who has allowed them to use violence in the name of Prophet (pbuh)? Who has made them protectors of Islam? NOT us. And we will not. All those who accuse others of blasphemy without any proof are the ones who commit blasphemy. Inciting to violence is a crime and it remains a crime even if they do it under the pretext of blasphemy.

We need to be united against these evil forces ready to destroy our identity as Pakistanis and we must stop them from hijacking our religion for their vested interests.

(STORY)
Express Tribune, January 15th

LAHORE: Two Christian women were beaten and publically humiliated by an angry mob over apparently frivolous blasphemy allegations and they and their family are now in hiding for fear of being killed, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“None of our relatives is ready to let us stay with them. They fear the wrath of the extremists, particularly after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer,” a male member of the family said over the phone from an undisclosed location.

The family and a non-governmental organisation that is helping them asked that their identities not be revealed, lest it put them in further danger. The names mentioned here are fictitious.

According to the family, the allegations stem from a dispute between Amina, a Muslim, and her sister-in-law Zahira, a Christian, in an East Lahore locality. The two got into an argument on Tuesday night and though it appeared to have been settled, on Wednesday morning, after her husband Zahid had gone to work, Amina walked out onto the street and started shouting that Zahira had abused the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

A short while later, a group of men led by Muhammad Sameer, a member of a religious organisation keen on raising its sectarian profile, forced their way into the house and started slapping Zahira, said another of her brothers, Sohail. “Other men and women from the neighbourhood started gathering at the house too and they beat up my sister and mother. They were the only people in the house,” he said.

“We tried our best to get her to confess her crime,” Sameer told The Express Tribune. As a member of the religious organisation, he said he could not tolerate any derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Sameer added that he was very proud of his wife’s performance during the mob beating. “She beat Zahira more than anyone else. Her hand is so swollen that she hasn’t been able to make rotis since the day of the incident. I’ve been getting my meals from a restaurant,” he said.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Salmaan Taseer, is a member of the same group as Sameer. The group also runs a twenty-four hour cable TV channel.

Khadim Hazoor, Sameer’s son-in-law and another participant in the beating, said that the women’s faces were blackened and they were made to wear necklaces of shoes and paraded around the locality on donkeys to humiliate them. He said the women denied blaspheming and repeatedly touched their feet seeking mercy.

He said the people of the locality would not allow Zahid or his family to return to their house, which he lives next door to. He claimed that the fight between Zahira and Amina the night before the incident revolved around the upbringing of Zahid and Amina’s 18-month-old daughter. Amina had wanted to raise her daughter as a Muslim, but Zahira wanted her niece to be raised as a Christian, he said.

Hazoor accused Zahid of “cheating Islam” by pretending to convert from Christianity to Islam so he could marry the Muslim girl. “We will not let them live in this house. He has not only cheated Amina but also Islam,” he said.

Zameer Khan, an NGO worker, helped the family flee the locality after they were attacked. “Apparently there was no blasphemy, just an argument between two women,” he said.

He said after hearing of the incident, he had reached the scene to find the women being attacked. He said he had asked the mob if anyone had heard Zahira utter any blasphemous remarks, to which they all replied in the negative. He said he persuaded them to let the women go while he investigated the matter. He then helped relocate the family temporarily. He said he had also convinced the mob not to involve the police.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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In memory of Salmaan Taseer: Death at a Funeral


Death at a Funeral

January 5, 2011 by Sher Ali Khan

Repeated photographs of a killer flashed on to the screen, as another martyr was created in Pakistan. Governor Salmaan Taseer stood right in the middle of the growing divide in Pakistan between decay and modernization.

Over the years, with the deteriorating socio-economic situation and rampant radicalization in the country a complete decay of thought and rationality has taken charge, which is leading the country back into the stone ages. The religious parties, which have been legitimized over the years, are becoming the alternative to the curse word known as democracy.

During the last two months, Taseer had taken a moderated stance asking for the parliament to probe into the blasphemy law, which almost everyone had repeated. The threat that Taseer posed was that he was willing to push the warped societal boundaries, which are based upon moral assumptions that have not been present for centuries.

The cleric has become a defining force in our society and no one is allowed to question credentials or the persons basis for assessment. Coming with the backing of god, their word is fast becoming an unchallengeable aspect in our society. Without an educational base to filter out the extremist ideology and thought there is a growing acceptance to extremism and radical thought.

Generally speaking Salmaan Taseer was one of the last voices to openly condemn terrorists and extremism even calling them “sick and demented” while also challenging their basis of authority. He had so cleverly grown into the role as governor using his technical background to wittingly challenge the politicians lack of activism against terrorists and extremists.

The consequent reaction to the murder of Salmaan Taseer was the gruesome celebration of his death by various reporters and TV anchors. The war had been won for these individuals who warned that his stance was a pro-American one. While playing down the significance of virtues such as hard work and education, these men boasted with pride explaining that his murder contributed to the overall betterment of society.

Looking forward as progressive voices continue to be silenced, one has to question the whole basis of right and wrong. Till this debate is settled the conception of Pakistan will be a mystery and in many ways a farce.

The Author was assigned the Governor beat in Lahore.

 

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Appeasement policy towards religious intolerance leads to murder of a governor


A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Appeasement policy towards religious intolerance leads to
murder of a governor

The nation has suffered a great loss due to this tragic murder. A
voice of sanity has been silenced. This has happened at a time when
the kind of political leadership provided by Salman Taseer is most
needed. He stood for basic values which are essential for the
stability of Pakistan. His shocking death should be an awakening for
all right-thinking people of Pakistan about the perils that the
country is facing. Creating chaos is not difficult under the tense
conditions under which Pakistan has functioned for a considerable time
now. The benefits of such chaos will only go to a few. However, the
consequences of this death can seriously harm the population which may
begin to react with fear of such murders. It is time for all concerned
persons and the government to react soberly but strongly on this
occasion in order to ensure that the benefits of this situation will
go to those are bent on creating chaos.

The incident is a clear demonstration of the religious hatred and
fanatical mindset that has seeped into the society. The sin of
Governor Salman Taseer was that he was openly criticising the misuse
of the blasphemy laws not only by the fundamentalists but also by the
courts and politicians. He was opposed to section 295-C of the
Pakistan Penal Code which was promulgated by the former military
dictator, General Zia-ul- Haq which dictates the death penalty to
alleged blasphemers.

It is very ironic that the fanatic Muslim leaders were openly
declaring that Governor Salman Taseer is Wajibul Qatl (must be
killed). They even publically announced reward money for the killings
of any person who opposes the blasphemy laws. However, the government
has made no move to arrest the fundamentalists. The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) on December 8, 2010 issued an Urgent Appeal
demanding that the government prosecute Muslim leaders who issued
decrees to kill Aasia Bibi. The AHRC also mentioned that Governor
Salman Taseer has been declared infidel so the government should
provide protection.

The policy of appeasement for the Muslim fundamentalists is simply
political expediency. In particular, the governments of Pakhtoon Kha,
Punjab provinces and the federal government have ignored the severity
of the religious madness which has made the society intolerant. The
media and its anchor persons are also responsible for the killing of
the governor as they were enjoying the controversy over the blasphemy
laws and were inviting fanatic Muslim leaders to take part in their
discussions. It was during these media discussions that they openly
urged the masses to act against Governor Taseer and Ms. Sherry Rehman,
the former federal minister who introduced a private bill in the
national assembly against section 295-c of blasphemy laws, as they
were both infidel and Wajibul Qatl.

It is also found that Punjab provincial government is notorious in
providing shelter to the leaders of banned religious terrorist
organizations and in many cases particularly during the election
campaigns, the provincial law minister was taking leaders of banned
religious parties in the processions so as to garner the votes of the
fundamentalists. The Punjab government was holding the conferences of
Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e- Risalat where the religious leaders were openly
threatening death to religious minorities and liberals for blasphemy,
particularly against the Ahmedis.

The governor’s assassin, Police Constable Mumtaz Quadri of the Elite
Force fired a burst from his machine pistol of which 26 rounds struck
Taseer. According to a pre-planned arrangement no security policemen
attempted to stop him. He first fired one shot and this was followed
by a total of 40 rounds. Three days before the shooting Quadri told
his colleagues that he was planning to kill the governor after which
he would surrender so as not to be killed himself. The Elite Force was
created by the chief minister of Punjab in 1997 and since then it has
become parallel to the police force. All appointments are made by the
ruling party of Punjab on political basis. Quadri claimed that he
killed the governor because he was opposed to the blasphemy laws.

Controversies abounded between the ruling party and the governor’s
house. The chief minister never liked his presence because the
governor was very vocal against the lukewarm attitude of the ruling
party towards the militant religious groups. The provincial government
did not obey the orders of the governor and, in fact, they were not
even on speaking terms.

The reports in the media suggest that the incident was not carried
out by a single person but was rather the result of a conspiracy. It
must be noted that the conspiracy was hatched through the Elite Force
which is run by the provincial law minister who was very much against
the governor and supportive of militant Muslim organisations. The
Punjab government was responsible for the provision of the security to
all VIPs in the province. It is a strange that a person with such
extremist inclinations was deployed in the governor’s security detail
which raises eye brows on the murder.

The murder of the Governor Taseer shows that the country is being
controlled by the military and the Mullahs and is rapidly turning into
a fascist state. The use of loud speakers from the mosques, which is
actually already against the law, must be halted firmly so that
religious and sectarian hatred cannot be spread throughout society.
The government must come out from behind the policy of appeasement of
the fundamentalists and put a stop to the cancer that is destroying
the country.

 

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A tribute to Salman Taseer: We will continue our struggle…


Salman Taseer in a press conference with Aasia Bibi (r), his wife (c) and his daughter (L)

The country in 2011 has lost a brave, liberal and outspoken politician-Governor Punjab, Salman Taseer–who did what no one else could do. In December, 2010, I got a chance of meeting him and when asked about his bold step of supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, he was still determined and confident of his faith as a Muslim and also of what he thought of blasphemy law. He wanted President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Aasia Bibi for the crime she never committed. Blasphemy law, he called, ‘a black law’ saying I do not like it. But since then we all went gaga and assumed his support for Aasia as his disrespect to Holy Prophet (PBUH) but that made me wonder how illogical we are in our assumptions.

I have some questions in my mind with a hope I will ever get their answers. Who commits blasphemy? Those hawkers who throw newspapers at our doorsteps with the name of God and Prophet on the front page? The police and lawyers who repeat thousands of times those blasphemous remarks in police stations and courts to prove their point against the accused?  And why this blasphemy law is not applied when disrespect is shown for other religions and Prophets?

NO one had the guts to raise Aasia issue, only Salman Taseer could do so. It is a shame when Dr. Sahibzada Abu-al-Khair Muhammad Zubair from JUP said on Geo that no Muslim should mourn his (Salman) death because he supported a woman who committed blasphemy. Salman Taseer rightly said that this is a man made law.

Criticising a law which some people have made for their vested interests does not mean disrespect to Prophet (PBUH). The blame of this murder should be shared by all those religious parties, extremist forces, and orthodox who either stayed quiet when death threats were made to the Governor, or who provoked those who finally did it in the broad day light.

Slman Taseer was neither an amazing politician, nor a perfect governor but he was liberal and never a hypocrite which is not a trait of a good politician.  He had never been a supporter of any cause despite all his liberal views, but he died for a cause. Those who thought that this murder  is enough to silent all dissenting voices have to face disappointment now. It will create many Salman Taseer’s because we all own this country. We refuse to hand it over to any extremist religious, or ideological force. We have a right to life and we refuse to be killed for our views. 

Insecure cowards need bullets but brave live and die for their beliefs. Islam and Prophet (PBUH) do not need these so called watch guards who are foolish in assuming that they are here to protect Islam and Prophet (PBUH). It is a war now which we have to fight for our survival, humanity and Pakistan.

Below are some stories and Interview of Salman Taseer:

Governor Punjab Salman Taseer killed in gun attack
Dawn, 4 January, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Gunmen killed the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, a senior member of the ruling party, in Islamabad on Tuesday, his spokesman said.

“Yes, he has died,” said the spokesman for Salman Taseer.

Police official Mohammad Iftikhar said Taseer was gunned down by one of his elite security force protectors. Five other people were wounded as other security personnel responded to the attack.

Police said earlier Taseer had been shot nine times and wounded near his Islamabad home in the F6 sector and close to Kohsar market, a popular shopping and cafe spot frequented by wealthy Pakistanis and expatriates.

Another police official, Hasan Iqbal, said a pair of witnesses told the police that as the governor was leaving his vehicle, a man from his security squad fired at him. Taseer then fell, while other police officials fired on the attacker.

In recent days, as the People’s Party has faced the loss of its coalition partners, the 56-year-old Taseer has insisted that the government will survive. But it was his stance against the blasphemy laws that apparently led to his killing.

Interior Minister Rahman Malik told reporters that the suspect in the case had surrendered to police and told them he killed Taseer because “the governor described the blasphemy laws as a black law.”

Taseer was believed to be meeting someone for a meal, Malik said. Other members of his security detail were being questioned, Malik said.

The security for Taseer was provided by the Punjab government.

“We will see whether it was an individual act or someone had asked him” to do it, Malik said of the attacker.

“He was the most courageous voice after Benazir Bhutto on the rights of women and religious minorities,” said a crying Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to Zardari and friend of Taseer. “God, we will miss him.”

Newsline Interview:

Q: Why did you take up Aasiya Bibi’s case?

A: Aasiya Bibi’s case is particularly relevant. She is a woman who has been incarcerated for a year-and-a half on a charge trumped up against her five days after an incident where people who gave evidence against her were not even present. So this is a blatant violation against a member of a minority community. I, like a lot of right-minded people, was outraged, and all I did was to show my solidarity. It is the first time in the history of the Punjab that a governor has gone inside a district jail, held a press conference and stated clearly that this is a blatant miscarriage of justice and that the sentence that has been passed is cruel and inhumane. I wanted to take a mercy petition to the president, and he agreed, saying he would pardon Aasiya Bibi if there had indeed been a miscarriage of justice.

Q: When do you expect the president to issue the pardon?

A: The case will come before the High Court and be heard, and if for any grotesque reason the judgement of the Sheikhupura district judge is upheld, then she will be given a presidential pardon.

Q: You have been criticised for circumventing the legal process.

A: Yes, particularly by a television talk show host. I would like to ask that host if some maulvi accused her of blasphemy and she spent a year-and-a half in jail and was then offered a presidential pardon, would she turn around and say, “no wait until my appeal has been heard.” This kind of ‘mummy daddy’ approach is probably fine for others, but I wonder if she would apply it to herself. I don’t think I have circumvented anything; all I have done is to draw everyone’s attention to this case. I have also showed my solidarity with minority communities who are being targeted by this law and, in doing so, I have sent across a strong message.

I have received thousands of messages from people from all walks of life. The result can only be good. This law that no one dared speak about is now being discussed, criticised and its repeal sought. I have heard anchors, journalists, members of civil society, people like Ghamdi, Imran Khan even Rana Sanaullah and many more saying amendments are required. The important thing to remember is that this is a man-made law, not a God-made one. What I find particularly distasteful is that when you speak of amendment, people assume you condone the crime. If I am against the death sentence, it does not mean I condone murder.

Q: Do you advocate repeal of those provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code better known as the Blasphemy Law?

A: If you want my personal opinion, I don’t like this law at all. I understand we are working in a coalition government and that being the case what we can do is to amend the law in such a way that the maker of a false accusation is tried under the same law. There should also be a proper filtration process where someone like a DCO should confirm that there is a case to answer. This will help ensure that pressure from maulvis and fanatics does not result in the victimisation of helpless people. One of the maulvis demonstrating against me said that they killed Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a judge who released someone accused of blasphemy. Surely, at the very least, he should be tried for incitement to murder.

Q: Yes, but the perpetrators get away…

A: The real problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. This also gives us a bad name in the world.

Q: Babar Awan, the federal law minister, has said there is no question of repealing the law on his watch. How do you respond to that?

A: Well, I do not agree with Babar Awan, it is as simple as that. That opinion is not a majority opinion in the party. Sherry Rehman has tabled a bill to amend the PPC. Most people in this country – and I am not talking about the lunatic fringe – are moderate. They do not like this law and have demonstrated against it.

Q: Will the PPP support Sherry Rehman’s effort?

A: President Zardari is a liberal, modern man; most people I know in the PPP are liberal and modern. I think the MQM, ANP and most of those in the PML-Q have the same point of view. So if push came to shove and there is no bowing to pressure from the lunatic maulvi, then it can very easily go through. And I think if Nawaz Sharif will show a little bit of moral courage for a change and keep away from his constituency of religious fundamentalism and place himself on middle ground, that too would be a very positive thing. This amendment should come through not on a party basis but across party lines. So you vote with your conscience.

Q: People may have demonstrated against Aasiya Bibi’s sentence, but fatwas have been issued against you.

A: People also issued fatwas against Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They issued fatwas against basant. These are a bunch of self-appointed maulvis who no one takes seriously. The thing I find disturbing is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask how many of them are well-to-do? How many businessmen? Why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50% of them are Christians when they form less than 2% of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is misused to target minorities.

Q: How do you think the media has handled this issue?

A: I am very impressed. Nearly 90% of the media in Pakistan has spoken out against this. I have watched talk shows, spoken to anchors, read numerous columns and opinions, and barring those with a deliberate agenda, not just every media person but also guests on talk shows have openly condemned the Blasphemy Law. They all say it should be amended, which is something which has been the most encouraging result of my move. Because I took a stand, many people have lined up and taken a stand and that, in turn, will empower judges and law-enforcement agencies to the extent that they may not bow to pressure. I think that now a policeman registering a case of blasphemy or a judge hearing a case will investigate before registering or at least think twice before hearing such as case.

Q: What kind of perverse pleasure is there in oppressing the weak and vulnerable?

A: Unfortunately and sadly there are people who feel bigger when they pick on someone who cannot fight back. It’s called bullying. I went to Sheikhupura jail to stand up against a bully and it has encouraged others to do so as well. That’s what taking a moral stance is. I am honestly happy to say that I am heartened by the huge response from ordinary folk. Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law. Ghamdi, for example, has stated clearly that this has nothing to do with Islam – Islam calls on us to protect minorities, the weak and the vulnerable.

Taseer to take Aasia’s clemency appeal to president
ExpressTribune

ISLAMABAD: Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer has said that he would take the clemency appeal of Aasia Bibi, Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations, to the President.He said he would personally request the president to use his prerogative and pardon the woman. Taseer visited Sheikhupura to meet Aasia Bibi on Saturday. Talking to the media men after the meeting, he said that Bibi denied that she had said anything disrespectful for the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) or Islam, adding that she accused the villagers who had chased her to her home of sexually assaulting her and dragging her through the streets. Taseer said that he did not want to interfere in the judicial proceeding, but he would do as much as he could in his capacity to make sure that she does not get punished for a crime she said she had not committed. He added that it was for the president to decide whether he would or would not grant her appeal.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.

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Taseer to take Aasia’s clemency appeal to president

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians, Courage

 

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