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

04 Jan

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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16 Comments

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

 

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

  1. Shehram

    January 4, 2011 at 7:30

    Saltue to him for taking a stand and sacrificing his life. We must continue his struggle!

     
  2. Hasan

    January 5, 2011 at 7:30

    The questions is, what will it take for the educated masses of Pakistan to realize they are being played by the Mullah. There has been no condemnation ‘yet’ from the politico-religious groups who were demonstrating against amendments on the 31st December.

    If this Mullahism isn’t put to end, many more incidents like this are bound to occur in the near future.

     
  3. Sadaf Arshad

    January 5, 2011 at 7:30

    Dear Hasan,
    I agree with you. This is really upsetting that we have refused to see the reality. There was a time when we never imagined any terrorism or suicide bombing around us and we supported jihad and terrorists. Now they have reached us. Similarly, It is just not Salman Taseer, if we do not raise our voice, we ll meet the same fate. The consensus we need to push away these religious extremist forces is hard to achieve, but we all need to start NOW.

    Regards,
    Sadaf

     
    • Hasan

      January 5, 2011 at 7:30

      Thank you for the insight and support. The thing is that, I encountered highly educated people arguing with me about the blasphemy law, clearly it wasn’t their opinion it was the opinion of some maulvi they follow, but it was alarming to know that most of the (so called) educated and enlightened ones are also promoting the agenda of the clerics. It is very alarming and disheartening.

      You might see the debate in one of the post I made where I tried to prove that blasphemy law isn’t Islamic.

       
    • sameen

      February 9, 2011 at 7:30

      How blind can one be? How ignorant can you be? Do you really beleive ms sadaf that this media perpetuated image of extremists and terrorists is true. In this land where zardari can be the president and people like you as his aides, how can justice prevail? You are so blind to the reality that its hilarious, they have reached you indeed but its not who you were expecting, hey wait these guys are not mullahs, they dont have any beards. These terrorists of yours are well armed, they have a whole army of automated drones to destroy you and you are afraid of the mullah! Dear lady, do raise your voice but please fear Allah because you are going to stand in front of him one day! I do not support the killing of the ex governor but i am sorry to say that when those who should implement the law go to sleep, then the masses take over……..what happened to taseer was something he bought upon himself……..he had no right to attack the beleif system of a people he had done nothing for!. Yes do raise your voice but not for your pocket do it for the sake of truth and beleive you me your fate will be better!

       
      • Sadaf Arshad

        February 10, 2011 at 7:30

        Dear Sameen,
        Thanks for the comment. I appreciate and respect your opinion. I hope you respect my opinion too. It is like there are two sides of a picture where you want to see only one. I do not believe in any extremism including liberal views. Why we have reached to this point because we all feel so defensive about what we believe in. It may be our ego that oh we are right. I guess we just need to be logical and try to be in the middle. It is a thin line which one should not cross. I guess if you go back and read or listen what Salman Taseer said then you should not be saying what you have said. Look, laws are man made. It is only our Holy Book that we must respect and no one is authorised to change anything or challenge it. But people like you and me make laws then what is the point in getting so emotional about them. So Salman Taseer was concerned about the law which should either be amended or repealed. Nothing about even Prophet (PBUH), because we all know him for having forgiven his enemies. So please try to see it this way that what sort of followers are we? Is this our love and respect for our Prophet (PBUH) that we kill people misusing his name without investigation. This is what our religion says investigate, inquire and clear your doubts.
        And I guess my fate is something you let Allah decide. do not be the judge because He has created me and it is His right only to accept me or forgive me or bless me. He has blessed me with a mind that respects human life. Believing in God does not mean that you kill those who does not believe in Him. He has given life, food, and opportunities to even non believers. Then who are we to interfere in His work?
        Thanks a lot
        Regards
        sadaf

         
  4. sameen

    February 12, 2011 at 7:30

    Respecting our holy book means acting upon it………in islam laws are not made by man he merely implements and follows them!……………..I have thorougjly followed what salman taseer said and what he did………i again repeat that i do not edorse the killing of humans……..i would prefer that the court hands out the punishment but when the media is bent upon making a hero out of a corrupt and moraly tainted man then i am sorry to say that he certainly was not a hero at all……we are not so dead as a nation as to forget who our hero’s should be……….. the reason people bcame against him and his government is their own fault….had they provided the people with the basic rights and education so that people would know more about their relegion..and then there relegion would have developed tolerance in them……….more than 50 years have passed and every coming ruler is more corrupt than the previous. how then can one expect anything else from such a people?….your study and research about sharia laws is not enough to comment that this law is man made…………..this law was practiced even in the times of the Prophet and calling it a black law or man made law is an outright disrespect to our prophet. Also terming practicing muslims terrorists and abusing the word “Mullah” is just the secular agenda you are bound to follow by those who pay you!. You are not a liberal at all as you think. You are a slave to dominant western ideologies. I am sorry i cant respect thoughts which have no depth, research or knowledge going into them who just follow what the mainstream media is saying and doing……who have no connection or idea about what t he masses are thinking. Before you talk about sharia laws atleast have a grasp on them so that you know what you are saying. I can not respect people who think they have a right to represent and sway the masses towards falsehoods!……….If you want to read the trurth and have the guts to publish something other than you are paid for than read this……AN ENDEAVOUR TO UNDERSTAND on maryamsakeenah.blogspot.com ………yes you are quite right about your fate……..i can never say what it is ……thanx for the reminder!

     
    • Sadaf Arshad

      February 12, 2011 at 7:30

      paid? nice, that was the only thing you could come out of your “research and knowledge”. I am impressed. Is not it a very ordinary comment to make that oh you are being paid? I could have said that you are being pumped and rewarded to follow this agenda by those who train suicide bombers to kill innocent people. But I have not said that. Well every other person is corrupt here so should I go asking people to start killing them. Again you are being judgmental by saying who is immoral and corrupt because that is again you and I cannot decide.
      Above all, I already said it is not good to be either liberal or conservative, the best is to be in the middle who have tolerance for others’ opinion. What I do is not to become any authority on anything including religion which you are trying to be under the pretext of your “research and knowledge”. It is only helpful for you. I prefer if God decides who is right and who is wrong. He is our creator and He and Prophet (PBUH) do not need ordinary people like us to protect Their name. I am sorry those who think that they are the custodians of any religion they are making a mistake. So just concentrate on reforming what you do and forgive what others do if nothing else is in your hands. Our problem is that we have not learnt to be humble and tolerant.

      Regards
      Sadaf

       
      • Hasan

        February 14, 2011 at 7:30

        I prefer if God decides who is right and who is wrong. He is our creator and He and Prophet (PBUH) do not need ordinary people like us to protect Their name. I am sorry those who think that they are the custodians of any religion they are making a mistake

        Beautifully put. I admire your thoughts and feel the same way about this issue

         
    • Hasan

      February 14, 2011 at 7:30

      I apologize in advance if I am being rude.

      A question for you:

      Did you ‘EVER’ read the “Holy Book” yourself miss? Do you understand what it asks you to do? The “alleged” Islamic law in question isn’t Islamic to begin with? The clerics you are siding with miss, go to the extent of distorting the Holy Scriptures to prove their point. (Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB4Yqo8dC30)

      Missy, before you dub anything as ‘ISLAMIC’, it is my right as a MUSLIM to demand you prove it from the Holy Qura’an, Hadiths and Islamic history as I have done it. Salman Taseer became a victim of this extremism that you are presenting here. Just because a maulvi said something is Islamic doesn’t mean it has to.

       
      • Hasan

        February 14, 2011 at 7:30

        The question is meant for Miss Sameen btw

         
  5. sameen

    February 14, 2011 at 7:30

    Assalam o alekum everyone
    Your anger and rudness is an answer to mine so no need for apology!…………i started it………..first of all let me answer you mr hasan……….i have read Quiran majeed several times Alhamdullilah and am teaching it now days…………………along with Quran majeed i have extesively studied hadeeth sciences as well and alhamdullilah have started studying fiqh and asool sharia……………..i dont go to a maddrissah infact have studied all my life in missionary schools and colleges………………….i have aquired all this on my own………….if you are asking for a degree in quran majeed………………that i dont have……i also hold a masters degree…….this all is just to tell you that i am not just here for the sake of fun…..i already qouted a source for anyone who wanted to read what i thought abt the issue……….as far as proof is concerned i will inshallah soon compile…….wait for it coz i have a thousand things on my hands but i am not running away!………….@sadaf……..i owe you an apology……i realized that yesterday that whats the use of all this fighting with fellow muslims if i make enemies out of it……….i still differ with you but i am sorry that i was rude………….this is something which i usually dont resort to but my reason for it was so futile that if i ever get a chance to meet you i might tell you………so lets call it a truce………..as far as letting Allah judge things and not judging ourselevs is concerned……..i beg to differ………whats the difference between an animal and man………..the difference is that humans can differentiate right and wrong and upon those they form their judgments and spend their lives……….when Allah made us Khaleefah(naib) as its mentioned in the quran majeed then he expected us to diffrentiate between right and wrong and then make decisions on our own but under the control of his laws so that we dont go astray!…………we are all custodians of our deen………….i prefer to call it deen coz that means way of life whereas relegion means madhab which in turn means sect!……..in Quran majeed the word deen is used………you are also its custodian………….yes the prophet doesnt need us to proteect his name at alll……………neither does Allah……………coz in the Quran majeed he says that if you dont establish my deen i will bring other who are better than you and who will establish it…………….so you see its us who need to do the right thing…………..salamn taseer was a publicly corrupt figure……..with his pictures showing him with drinking Alcohol……….partying with women………..and not only that he had several cases pending against him in the court involving money embezzelment………….so calling such a public figure as morally tainted is;nt being judgmental……….these are just facts………..Anyways i hold to my opinon still but apologize for my rudness……..i hope we can still engage in health debates even if we differ in the future……..Also let me mention that i have read almost all of karen armstrongs books but her portrayal of what she calls islamic history is sadly quite oriental and biased!

     
  6. sameen

    February 15, 2011 at 7:30

    mr hasan…….u seriously amuse me……i dont remmber claiming once that i have all the knowledge or research………my crime was to claim that Ms sadaf doesent have it………..anyways i have already accepted that was a wrong way to proceed even if i differ….the only reason i told you my relation with quran majeed coz u questioned it …..Allah knows i had no intention of posing as superior to anyone……i am still a student……….but yes i still think that ms sadaf’s article on salman taseer seemed without any indepth research …..but ofcourse that is my personal opinion……you can disagree as much as you want…as far as my refrence is concerned i gave this address
    maryamsakeenah.blogspot.com
    Her recent article “An endeavour to understand” is my opinion on this topic!
    And what you have qouted as my refrence was not meant to be a refrence of anykind at all………..i hope you will also read the blog i have mentioned……..i have already read some of your articles……..but i thought merely commenting was futile becoz this topic needs more space then comments but i will try inshallah to be brief!.

     
  7. Sadaf Arshad

    February 15, 2011 at 7:30

    Dear All,
    Thank you for your comments. I accept all agreements and disagreements with an open mind.
    @Sameen: Which research and knowledge you are referring to? I know one thing that Islam is not a religion which believes in injustice and inhumanity. Forgiveness is something the Prophet (PBUH) has been preaching and following then why his Ummah is overlooking this basic trait. Plus judging someone on what he/she does is where we are wrong. You have all rights to call anyone morally corrupt but that bias should have that space which allows you to see beyond that. I hope that you will soon be able to look beyond your prejudice and judgments which will help you to value human life.
    @Hasan: I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

    Regards,
    Sadaf

     
  8. sameen

    February 16, 2011 at 7:30

    i do value human life…………..i also value faith and justice!……i am hopeful you will explain what you mean by looking beyond……………did you get the chance of reading the blog i posted here?……………..my stance on human life and judging others might become a little more clearer to you!…..that is ofcourse if you care to read it……..thats up to you………..and jazakallah for keeping an open mind as i know my opinoin must be really hard for you to agree with!

     

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