A tragic start for Pakistan in 2011
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A tragic start for Pakistan in 2011

By Hassan Abbas, Asia Society

Amid political turmoil following key resignations from Pakistan’s ruling coalition, the country received a jolt with the brutal assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the hands of a terrorist identified as Malik Mumtaz Qadri—his official security guard, who targeted Taseer on the pretext of his bold criticism of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

Taseer called it “black law,” and religious extremist elements misinterpreted this statement as anti-Islamic. His political opponents and some local media outlets also criminally used the opportunity to defame and discredit him with malice. Taseer was also a vocal critic of human rights violations, especially those pertaining to minorities. His barbaric murder is an attempt by bigots to silence all those who want free speech and are challenging intolerance in society. This is a setback for democracy in Pakistan.

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Salman Taseer, right, Governor of Pakistani Punjab Province, listens to Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi, left, at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010. Pic: AP.

Taseer, son of M.D. Taseer, an eminent South Asian intellectual, was associated with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party since his student years. He also penned a biography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the late prime minister of Pakistan and one of the PPP’s main founders. Taseer had also joined hands with former President Pervez Musharraf—a step not liked by his parent political party—but after the 2008 elections, the PPP decided to appoint him governor of Punjab in recognition of his lifelong contributions to the party.

In addition to his political life, he was a successful entrepreneur and businessman. He set up several chartered accountancy and management consultancy firms and founded the Worldcall group—a major telecom company. He also owned an English news channel in Pakistan, Business Plus, and was the publisher of the English-language Daily Times—a progressive newspaper.

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