Rehmat cries for Salmaan Taseer

Published: September 16, 2011

Rehmat asks me to tell Sheherbano that her father lives among all of us who hope for a secular Pakistan.

Today, when the MQM-Mirza conflicts have shifted most people’s interest from Indian soaps to Pakistani news channels and local conspiracy theorists declare dengue fever an American agenda; when Shahbaz Taseer has still not returned home and most people prefer Aafia Siddiqi over Taseer, I want to share something with you – something that you may not find as interesting at all, but still…

This real account includes incidents that take this story beyond me or the people related to it – it is a story relatable to every citizen of our decaying country.

It all begain in March on Faiz’s centennial when I wrote a  blog in The Express Tribune about an old power loom worker from Faisalabad named Rehmat who could not afford to enter a bourgeois gathering of Faiz’s elitist admirers. He was not the only victim of intellectual elitism; Rehmat represented thousands of those working-class followers of Faiz, who could never cross the barrier of a thousand rupee ticket decided as a mandate by Faiz’s family.

The very day when the piece got published on this site, I received a message on Facebook from Shehrbano Taseer, a bold journalist and daughter of slain Governor of Punjab. She wrote that she felt sad after reading about Rehmat and that she wanted to send a gift for him. This was really surprising to me. Why would someone like her send anything for a person that could be very well be fictional? So, I wrongly thought maybe she’s trying to be cathartic – like a lot of elitists who find relief in charity work.

A few days later, one of her staff members dropped the gift for the old worker at my office. I was impressed by her humanistic vision.

I had to go to Faisalabad in any case for the completion of my documentary about the power-loom workers. I had luckily penned down the factory’s name where Rehmat worked when I met him in Lahore. Now, the task was to find him.

After spending many hours in the poverty-stricken narrow streets of the industrial area, I found the mill I was looking for, and immediately began searching for Rehmat. Eventually, I saw him again, this time working among the haunting machines. The same old ragged clothes and wrinkled face, but this time the old man was holding a black piece of cloth, while manufacturing it in a machine, instead of a red flag.

It was a short meeting. We sat outside his factory where he could rest a little bit. He lit a cigarette and smoked it, holding it in the last two fingers of his closed hand. He was really surprised to see me and I was a little confused too. Finally, I started explaining the reason of my visit (in Punjabi of course).

‘’Actually, Ms Shehrbano Taseer has sent something for you.’’

That was obviously a vague way to start the conversation. He, thus, replied:

“Who is she?”

“Oh, well, she’s a journalist who came to know that you could not enter the Faiz day at Alhamra in Lahore…”

I gave him Bano’s gift, an audio CD, a special centennial edition of Faiz’s poetry. Rehmat sorrowfully smiled and kept looking at Faiz’s photograph on the CD cover for a few seconds. He then asked:

“So, who is she?”

“Well, she is the daughter of Salmaan Taseer.”

He stopped smiling and looked into my eyes with great disbelief. His eyes reflected an expression I could not understand. His expressions changed all of a sudden and the wrinkled face looked even more wrinkled. After a silent pause, he started crying. He kept crying for a while. I found out his full name, Rehmat Masih (Masih is the Arabic word for Messiah) and that he’s been a die hard worker of the People’s Party since Bhutto’s era.

He started speaking with great difficulty:

“Onhey meray wastay apni jaan ditti si…” 

(“He gave his life up for me”)

He continued:

“Tell his daughter that her father lives among all of us who still see hope for a secular and classless Pakistan in the future.”

He kept crying. In his each drop of tear, I saw the smiling face of Salmaan Taseer; In his each drop of tear, I felt the defeat of Mumtaz Qadri and his supporters. In his each drop of tear, I found the success of truth and defeat of those who kill that.

I had absolutely nothing to say,  and no way to console him. I was about to leave when Rehmat stopped me, put his hand on my shoulder and said,

“Sahab, tussi waday banday lagdey o. Tusii Bilawal nu dusna ke Bhutto da raasta chuney.  Jinhey aakhya si ke Socialism sadi maishat aey.

(Sir, you seem like a high-class person. Ask Bilawal to follow Bhutto’s path who said that Socialism is our economy…)

“I’m not a high-class person.” I said and moved away.


Ammar Aziz

An independent filmmaker and political activist who teaches film theory at NCA. He blogs at and tweets at @ammar_aziz

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

  • Caeser

    Sir Taseer was a great soul. We love him for his courage. Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    It is not the amount of money we amass in our lifetime that counts, it is the number of people we help and those whose life we impact positively that matters. Most of our lives is spent in grabbing and taking, very little time is spent in giving and sharing. Most people call themselves Religious even when they lack basic human values. The degradation in human values is destroying mankind and such tales should provide motivation to those of us who cherish a better tomorrow.Recommend

  • Ms Marium

    “Sahab, tussi waday banday lagdey o. Tusii Bilawal nu dusna ke Bhutto da raasta chuney. Jinhey aakhya si ke Socialism sadi maishat aey.”

    He chose and happy cares for daddy ofcourse !Recommend

  • PostMan

    Just Excellent.Recommend

  • Shakeel

    A beautiful write up….Recommend

  • M Ali Khan

    and majority of our “educated” youth and masses in Pakistan have no idea or understanding of secularism. to them its kufr, apostasy, atheism, and what not.

    they would rather listen to the reassuring lies of Zaid Hamid and other Pak-Islami thekedaars than the inconvenient truths of the ones they ignorantly call “liberal fascists” about what Pakistan has been really suffering from and what it really needs!

    You can say and do anything absurd and ridiculous in Pakistan, use Islam to justify it according to your own wish, and then get away with it while those who question it become classed as traitors and kafirs (as seen by the likes of Marvi Sirmed, Hasan Nisar, Pervez Hoodbhoy et al.)Recommend

  • Samson Salamat

    Hats off to the choice of Salman Taseer and his sacrificeRecommend

  • Noble Tufail

    they cant undo Taseer and shahbaz bhatti from every heart and soul, who has fallen in love with Taseer’s vision of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Asad

    Dear Ammar….your punk hairstyle may have made the man to believe that you are high class! But this article seems to give an impression that Salmaan Taseer was just a hero of only the Christians in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Fatima Ali Khan

    A very moving n beautiful piece of writing i must say!
    We miss Salmaan Taseer and hope real justice ever comes to this country!! Outspoken for most of the people who knew him in one way or the other..i think we should not deny the fact that he gave up his life for his stances!! Courageous people like him are yet to come and make a mark in our hearts!! Recommend

  • Syeda

    That this article was about a fellow Pakistani who is Christian does not necessarily mean that Salman Taseer is admired only by Christian Pakistanis. Rather it is indicative that Taseer was/is admired by many Pakistanis including Christian ones. Recommend

  • Omair

    May our minorities find peace, love and justice in a nation of humanity and acceptance. And lets hope that nation is Pakistan. Salmaan Taseer will live forever. Recommend

  • Funkydaddy

    what nonsense is this ?
    You connected two completely different things. Recommend

  • Faheem Baloch

    we miss u Salman Taseer…:(Recommend

  • Syeda

    A lovely, moving article. Thank you for this. May we all realize that it is far more humane and peaceful to live together without hurting or oppressing each other. There are many who criticize Taseer for may things, and if he had personal flaws or views that one disagrees with that is fine. But equally, it is important to see him as a multi-dimesional person who had great qualities as well. His courage to speak in the face of opposition and fear was amazing. He’s a hero in my books for that. Recommend

  • Qaiser

    good write up but we have yet to see what path our new lord bilawal is going to choose.. weather of his father or his grand father.Recommend

  • Baqir

    this is simply amazing yaar,keep up the spirit :)Recommend

  • ZS

    Lovely peace. Very well done. I hope one day Pakistan will become a nation of people not a nation only for muslimsRecommend

  • Parvez

    Isn’t it a shame that the Rehmat Masih’s are three steps worse off today than they were because the people in whom they put their trust, bettered only themselves a hundred times over, leaving the Rehmat’s with only tears and a shattered dream.Recommend

  • Ammad

    Hats-off! very very touching!!!Recommend

  • heer

    Touched deeply! Salman Tasser left one of a kind kids.. Recommend

  • farah

    typing with a heavy heart. beautiful write up. god bless you.Recommend

  • Ali

    martyrs are remembered forever by history while killers fade from memory really quickly Recommend

  • Ghouri

    fake article… the punjabi speeking worker talking abt socialism and secular Pakistan. Imposible just trying to cash the emotions from people. And ST dies due to his foolishness. InshaAllah that secularism to govern Pakistan dream will never be accomplished.Recommend

  • raza

    Salman Taseer was no doubt a martyor……..jus read in some paper that MUMTAZ QADRI does not regret what he did…so the real concern is why can,t PPP unveil those religious freaks behind QADRI and UNJUSTIFIED MURDER OF TASEER…..why don,t u pik out MULLAH,S from RAIWIND and bring them to justice…………..BEST OF LUCK PAKISTANRecommend

  • zzzz

    what is your grudge against secularism? Care to share.Recommend

  • raza

    @ GHOURI
    well friend knowledge and sense of living does not necessarily comes from CAMBRIDGE granted O & A level degrees……….a factory worker may manages a better social life than a buisness tycoon………honestly speaking PAKISTAN is alwez governed by seculars rather aethists in the name of religion…….wat we r hoping is a way to shed this hypocrisy…..THE deceased governor might not be a very good MULLAH bt his cause was to fight aginst fake version of ISLAM n v all r proud of him……Recommend

  • Comrade


    1) You have given a racist comment that stereotypes the Punjabi language that it is meant for the uneducated (whom you call Jahil with pride).

    2) Do you have any SLIGHTEST idea that politically active workers like Rehmat are well read ideologically and are conscious about their goals. Every socialist reads Marx, Engles, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and other revolutionary theorists at some level, no matter whatever the language is.

    3) People with narrow mindset confine everything to their preconceived notions of intellect and awareness. Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    What the poor guy could have done with the cd assuming he was poor could he afford a cd player?Recommend

  • Alan

    I cried after reading this article. I wonder how many Pakistanis realize that they have created a society of supremacism – just like blacks were treated as different and inferior in white countries, non-muslims are treated in same manner in Pakistan.Recommend

  • farah

    @Yasir Mehmood: ahahahahahahahaahRecommend

  • Fan of ST Sir

    Salmaan Taseer tussi hero ho!!!
    Dushmanein di kade jaan, suleiman suleiman!!!!!

    YOU ARE ALIVE SIR AAP ZINDA HAIINN jab tuk hum aur humaray bachay aur unke bachay (etc) zinda hai, AAP ZINDA HEII
    Ham kabhi nahin bhoolein geiRecommend

  • gojilla

    The impressionable writer makes up a character out of thin air in the shape of Rehmat, to which he tentatively hints at and successfully manipulates the readers making them cry and fall prey to those icky wishy washy sentiments. I predict young ammar will go a long way coasting on his made up socialist fairy tales. And while he’s at it we hope he also bought the phantom rehmat a real cd player.Recommend

  • muhammed ali

    I have more secular beliefs than sir salman taseer, but after his assassination,I am more open in public, have no fear of these bigots anymore,I fell more liberated now,I am Secular and will always be and hope the same for my nation!Recommend