A sampling from around the web. Rashid Rahman:
Salmaan Taseer grew up in straitened family circumstances due to the untimely demise of his father, famous intellectual Dr. M. D. Taseer. His mother, Chris, struggled in penury to bring up her three children, Salmaan and his two sisters. From such humble beginnings, Salmaan went on to qualify as a chartered accountant from England, set up his own accountancy firm on returning to Pakistan, and ventured into the (then) booming Gulf States to build a business base that later catapulted him into the ranks of the captains of industry and commerce in Pakistan.
His association with the PPP was both emotional and consistent. He was the author of a book on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whom he greatly admired, a prolific reader and writer, and a man who never shrank from expressing his firmly held opinions without fear. This boldness often landed him in trouble. Arrested during the MRD movement of 1983 by the Ziaul Haq military regime, he was subjected to horrendous torture in the notorious Lahore Fort. Undeterred, he rose to Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly in 1988, a stint that sealed his enmity with then Chief Minister Punjab Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N. For his outspoken criticism of the Sharif government from the floor of the Assembly and outside, Salmaan was beaten black and blue by the Punjab government’s goons, suffering fractures in the process.
Taseer’s assassination; even though assassination is too mild a word to describe it, the correct term should be cold-blooded murder at the hands of a Pakistani who has grown up and is continuously spoon-fed state and the right-wing religious lobby’s propaganda about Islam, blasphemy and secularism, is not the beginning of the end. This is the end. There is no going back from here, there is no miracle cure, there is no magic wand that will one day make everything better. Saying “enough is enough” does not cut it anymore, I think we can all agree that enough was enough ages ago, when the first murder under the garb of protecting Islam took place. With each bullet that deranged gunman pumped into Taseer’s body, with each person celebrating Taseer’s murder, with each person who has approved or justified his death on national TV, with each politician who promised that they would not change the law or allow it to be changed, the rape of humanity has been carried out, repeatedly.
You spoke publicly, boldly, audaciously and unequivocally against the persecution of a helpless Christian woman. In a province where the Law Minister mollycoddled with a banned terrorist organization, you spoke publicly against terrorism. In a country where politicians cannot dare (even more so now) to express their liberal views and disguise their identity in the shroud of religious righteousness, you openly accepted your identity as a liberal when a hypocrite, disgusting Mehr Bokhari played to the gallery. Perhaps we might never have another prominent vocally liberal politician for years now – the cost it seems is the highest a human can pay. In the crowd of pygmies, a tall standing Salmaan Taseer would forever be conspicuous as the man whom the maulvis declared an apostate – but who continued to fight for what he felt was the right thing to do.
Whatever ramifications it has for the blasphemy law, Taseer’s death should bring home a much more urgent set of realizations. The disturbing reality is that the continued existence of the blasphemy laws, his assassination and the varying shades of reactions to his murder all point to a set of very deeply embedded structural problems within the Pakistani state and Pakistani society.
Long-time advocates of an optimistic outlook for Pakistan like myself have based a positive long-term prognosis on the country’s size and the concomitant economic potential it has. However, the ability of Pakistan to align itself with any kind of transformative economic activity is contingent on a baseline of minimum human and social capital, a minimal ability within the state to absorb and leverage that capital, and a minimum baseline of rational rigor within political discourse.
Those three qualities are in desperately short supply in the Pakistan of 2011.
Pakistani political parties must view the fact that Taseer was murdered by his own personal guard at such close range with caution and consider how long they can keep acquiescing to the demands of religiopolitical parties that, on the one hand, are part of the democratic process, but on the other, continue to defend contentious religious laws whose potential misuse continues to threaten the lives of Pakistanis — from the fieldworker Asia Bibi to the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer.
for starters, one of the reportedly eight fan pages of taseer’s killers had over a 100 fans. when i clicked through their profiles, they were also fans of stuff like Enrique Iglesias, Family Guy, 300, Coke Studio, the Godfather.
a prominent ahmed qureshi-clone blogger, dan qayyum, constantly tweeted that it was time to take out all the liberal extremist cunts. his previous tweets had been about how roy hodgson wasn’t good enough his beloved liverpool.
see the contradictions here?
unfortunately, its not like those of us who stood under the banner of liberal or humanist values have never done the exact same.
honestly, did you go around feeling horrified when people celebrated the death of baitullah mehsud? or have you been one of the many people who tweeted or facebook statused or whatever that it is horrid to speak ill of the dead, before unleashing a tirade against the still-dead zia ul haq for his murderous policies?
i don’t want to speak of ill of governor taseer, but i also don’t want his death to be a moment where we whitewash the past.
It was rather uncanny to overhear a conversation that I did between two security guards outside the building they were deputed to guard, within minutes of the news of Mr Taseer’s death breaking. One guard congratulated the other on the assassination while the other responded by saying that the killer was indeed a very courageous man, God be praised.
This is not the country that makes one feel very safe.
A childhood friend, Haseeb Ahmad, told AP that Qadri’s family was religious and that he was an active member of an Islamic association called the Shahab-e-Islam Pakistan – or the Star of Islam in Pakistan, a street level group that organized a recent conference on the issue of blasphemy.
“Mumtaz recited verses in the praise of Prophet Muhammad,” Ahmad said. “He also wept while discussing the blasphemy issue.”
People’s Party member Samiullah Khan said that he was surprised when he saw the attacker’s appearance: “Look at his face, his beard. We are surprised how a man with such a religious appearance managed to be part of the squad meant for such a sensitive job.”
Taseer’s death deprives Pakistan of a colourful politician with unusual reserves of pluck. More significantly, it signals a worrying reduction in the public space for public figures, who cannot even count on their own police to protect them. The country’s liberals have not felt so isolated since the dark years of the Zia dictatorship in the 1980s.
When a small Christian colony in the Punjabi town of Gojra was torched by the same extremists in 2009, he was among the first politicians to reach there. Surveying the charred remains of a one-room church, he reflected on the country’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens. “If the kind of police that are here to protect me now were there to protect them,” he told me, gesturing to the heavily armed guards that surrounded him, “then this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
Armed guards, as the subcontinent’s people have brutally learnt, can be even more dangerous. But the real tragedy is for Pakistan’s long-suffering minorities, who have lost their bravest champion.
But the disgust does not end with a couple of morons trying to silence all discussion about religion to and other fanatics praising a criminal. The bigger issue, as we have been saying all along, is the refusal of society to see the inter-linkages of such acts of terrorism with the mindset that has been cultivated through the military establishment’s promotion of jihadi outfits, the propping up of so-called religious parties whose only agenda is bigotry, the pusillanimous and opportunistic silence over the treatment of minorities such as Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus and Christians and indeed all dissenters (religious scholar Javed Ghamdi being one), the valourization of criminals such as the illiterate Ilm Deen (dubbed shaheed [martyr] because he was hanged in 1929 for murdering a publisher), the rejection of rationality and logic, the marginalization of the arts and cultural traditions as something alien to our society, and the tolerance for hate-speech and incitements to violence such as that of this monkey. It is this mindset, which has been cultivated by the state looking the other way at – if not directly promoting – acts of radicalization, that allows an entire police squad to see nothing wrong in one of their own planning to commit the murder of someone they are assigned to protect. (We now hear via Geo that Qadri had in fact confided to his colleagues in the Punjab ‘Elite Force’ about his plans and had even requested them not to shoot at him, a request they honoured.)
Our real disgust should be directed at all those parts of society that cannot put two and two together despite the evidence staring them in the face. We will inevitably hear a lot in the media about security lapses and administrative efficiency lapses that led to a criminal being part of a protective force (incidentally, Geo is also reporting through its sources that Qadri had been sacked from the Punjab Police’s Special Branch a few months ago because he was dubbed a ‘security risk’). But the only void that I think we really need to focus on is the one in our society’s collective brain.