Should Taseer’s death be in vain?

Published: January 5, 2011
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Taseer staunchly opposed the blasphemy law even when many in his party backed down

I would be lying if I said I’m shocked by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. Ever since he announced support for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations, religious zealots had been calling for his head, on the streets, on Facebook groups and in fiery Friday sermons. Of course, no one took that seriously.

His own political party deserted him when Prime Minister Gilani, shamelessly playing to the religious right to save the coalition government and his seat, vehemently claimed he would never even think of amending the blasphemy laws. One would expect the prime minister to have more sense than to play the fiddle while the country is engulfed by intolerance and barbarism. I wonder if the premier feels even slightly guilty about this.

Not surprisingly, Taseer’s assassination has not, and will not, change much. Online message boards are rife with apologists, claiming ‘after all, he was supporting a blasphemer.’ Most religious clerics continue to maintain the man deserved this fate.

Then there is the Facebook group heralding the assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri that has over a thousand ‘fans’ already. A close look at its member list reveals that the fans are not radicalised madrassah-educated folks. They’re either young, middle-class Pakistanis enrolled at universities or expatriates mostly from United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, television anchors continue to mull over how this will impact the Sharif duo or the government, not for a second pausing to question how this will impact the society at large. Is it not time to stop hiding behind metaphors and hold an open national debate on the media, like the one held in 2006 over Hudood laws, the result of which was the Women’s Protection Bill? Is it not time to put an end to this arbitrary state of affairs? If Taseer’s death does not bring this about, I’m afraid it will be in vain.

gulraiz.khan

Gulraiz Khan

A sub-editor on the business desk of The Express Tribune who is interested in visual journalism and hopes to turn newspapers in to works of art

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.