The Politician Who Was NoblePosted: 8 January 2011
Whatever you’re doing today, pause for a moment and remember Salmaan Taseer.
This gentleman, the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, gave his life this week in the pursuit of justice. Mr. Taseer was killed after working to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws under which Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, has been condemned to die for the sake of her beliefs.
A member of Mr. Taseer’s own security squad assassinated the governor on Tuesday at Kohsar Market in Islamabad.
Asia Bibi, real name Asia Noreen, was arrested and imprisoned in the summer of 2009 under the false charge of blasphemy. Authorities claim Ms. Bibi made derogatory remarks about Muhammad, which are punishable by execution under Pakistani law. As in most cases of this type, it is far more likely Ms. Bibi’s arrest was due to personal arguments with a neighbour, and her religious differences used as a convenient excuse.
Ms. Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in November of 2010. Mr. Taseer visited Ms. Bibi in prison in the same month and promised to take her case to Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan. Since that time, Mr. Taseer worked to secure her freedom and publicly called for her pardoning.
Hearing the news of Mr. Taseer’s death, Ms. Bibi is quoted to have said,
“That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me. I know that everything that has happened is because of me. I know in my heart of hearts, that person came here for me and what I feel now, no one else can feel.”
A security guard formerly in the service of Mr. Taseer and known as Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri has accepted responsibility for the unlawful killing of the governor. He claims that this was in response to Mr. Taseer’s outspoken criticism against the blasphemy laws and in particular Asia Bibi’s case. Perversely, Malik Mumtaz is being hailed by some groups in Pakistan as a hero for the betrayal and cold-blooded murder of the man he was meant to protect.
Only eight hours before his death, Mr. Taseer posted a couplet by the Urdu poet Shakeel Badayuni on Twitter;
“My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear only the radiance of the flowers, that it might burn my garden down.”
Mr. Taseer; you brought honour to the name of politician. You will be always be remembered for the ultimate sacrifice you knowingly made for the love of your fellow man; I sincerely hope you are now in the loving arms of whichever god you chose to believe in. Mr. Taseer; thank you, sir, from all humanity, for choosing to stand up for what was right.