Pakistani politican murdered over his call for repeal of Blasphemy Laws: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 5. February 22, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Terrorism.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
A leading opponent of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has been assassinated. On Jan 4 the Governor of the Punjab Salman Taseer was shot to death by one of his bodyguards during a visit to an upscale shopping mall outside of Islamabad.
The murder of Salman Taseer is likely to further weaken the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and set back the movement to reform the country’s blasphemy laws.
A moderate within the ruling PPP, Mr Taseer had been an outspoken opponent of the Taliban and had campaigned for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in November. He had been minister for industry and production under former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from 2007 to 2008, and was appointed Governor of the Punjab in 2008.
Pakistan has come under strong overseas political pressure to reform its blasphemy laws, with much international attention focused on the case of Mrs. Bibi. President Zardari and Prime Minister Galani face the difficult task of satisfying the demands of the international community and moderates within the government that they pardon the imprisoned mother of five, and of Muslim leaders who have called for her execution.
Promises made last month to reform the Blasphemy Laws have since been shelved as the PPP seeks to find a coalition partner among the Muslim parties, who have opposed any changes in the law. On Jan 2 the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) quit the cabinet and joined the opposition, while the country’s largest religious based political party the Jumiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) left the government last month after one of its leaders was sacked as Religion Minister by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
In a statement released by Interior Minister Reham Malik, the government reported that Mr. Taseer had been shot by one of his security guards, identified as Mumtaz Qadri.
“He confessed that he killed the governor himself because he had called the blasphemy law a black law,” Mr. Malik said, adding that Qadri “has confessed his crime and surrendered his gun to police after the attack.”
Pakistani human rights activist Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry condemned the killing. “This shooting is tragic and should never have happened.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said Taseer’s “death is a tragic reminder of the extreme danger faced by all those who stand for justice in opposition to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, whether politicians, journalists, lawyers or activists. How many more lives must be destroyed before this legislation is repealed?”