Rose Petals for a Killer

By Taseer, Shehrbano | Newsweek, January 24, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Rose Petals for a Killer


Taseer, Shehrbano, Newsweek


Byline: Shehrbano Taseer; Taseer is a graduate of Smith College and a reporter for NEWSWEEK Pakistan.

My father's assassination could teach us something.

My father, Salmaan Taseer, governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, was murdered on Jan. 4, shot dead in broad daylight by the policeman tasked to protect him. Acting out of a twisted piety, the man--Malik Mumtaz Qadri--shot my father because of his belief that Pakistan's blasphemy laws have been misused to persecute religious minorities.

Five days later the hardline Sunni Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party organized a rally in support of those blasphemy laws in Pakistan's commercial hub, Karachi. This coming-out party put on display the ugly face of the tens of thousands of religious fanatics who wish to destroy Pakistan's secular, liberal, progressive, and democratic forces.

In the days before his death, these same men had issued fatwas against my father, burned him in effigy, and put a bounty on his head. There could have been no plainer incitement to murder.

My father had spoken out repeatedly against the blasphemy laws after Aasia Noreen, a Christian farm worker in rural Punjab, was sentenced to death in November. These laws, which carry a mandatory life sentence, were enacted by the military dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in 1986.

Seeing these fanatics scream religious slogans and wave pictures of the killer Qadri, their latest messianic foot soldier, was sickening, as was seeing more than 200 lawyers--our vanguard of justice--garlanding Qadri and showering him with rose petals at his court appearance.

Sherry Rehman, a federal minister who tabled a bill seeking to amend the blasphemy laws, has been declared wajib ul qatal--fit to be killed--by the religious fanatics. I should mention--although I make no special claim of courage--that my own life has also been threatened. "She should refrain from issuing such statements and must remember her father's fate," the fanatics have warned, referring to me.

From 1986 to 2009, 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus, and 10 others have been charged with blasphemy, according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group set up by Pakistan's Catholic bishops. No one convicted of blasphemy has ever been executed by the state, but many have been mowed down by Islamist vigilantes.

The biggest danger faced by Islam comes from those who claim to serve it.

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