The Economist wrote an obituary for Governor Salman Taseer who was killed while in capitivity facing charges, Jan 4th 2011. They described Taseer as ‘a good man who did something.’ We contrast news from Western and regional perspectives.
Salmaan Taseer was Governor of Punjab. A former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member, he was appointed to the post in 2008 by former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.
He was killed by Mumtaz Qadri, a member of Taseer’s security detail, someone described by The Telegraph as
a police officer known for his hard-line religious views.
Aljazeera reported that some religious scholars had issued a statement asking people not “to try to lead funeral prayers, express regrets or sympathies over his assassination”. Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister told the news agency that Qadri had admitted to carrying out the attack because of Taseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.
The Economist [Jan 7th 2011] wrote as follows [the quote is edited from the on-line edition]. I find it strange that the newspaper lists factors ending (not beginning) with Mumtaz Qadri:
Mr Taseer, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party and a close ally of the president, Asif Ali Zardari, had been campaigning on behalf of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian farm worker who in the course of a row with neighbours over drinking water was accused of blasphemy, convicted and sentenced to death. He had called for her to be pardoned, and also for the law, under which death for blasphemy against the prophet is mandatory, to be changed. His murderer, one of his bodyguards, said this was why the governor was killed.There are a few obvious culprits. First is the army. Zia ul Haq, who took power in a coup in 1977 (and who imprisoned Mr Taseer and had him tortured), introduced sharia law, set up many of the religious schools that have produced the [current] extremists and promoted fundamentalist officers. The politicians as a class, has given democracy such a bad name that mullahs who decry it get an enthusiastic hearing. Nawaz Sharif, twice prime minister, formerly chief minister of Punjab and whose brother now holds that post, has long numbered fundamentalists among his allies, and it was during his time in power that the mandatory death sentence was introduced. After the Ahmadi massacre in Punjab’s capital, Lahore, neither of the Sharifs visited the mosques to pay their respects to the community.
The Pakistan People’s Party must take its share of the blame, too. Its manifesto committed it to repealing discriminatory laws, and President Zardari made much of Ms Bibi’s case. But instead of granting a swift pardon he dithered until the case became a cause célèbre for fundamentalists. The government abandoned the only two politicians brave enough to pursue the matter—Mr Taseer and Sherry Rehman, an MP who had introduced a private member’s bill to amend the law—and said it would not change the legislation.
For evil to prevail, as the old saw goes, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. But Mr Taseer’s fate shows how high a price those who do something may have to pay. Brave people who are isolated are [then] easy to pick off. Pakistan’s political class [should] cling on to the values Jinnah predicted would make the place “one of the greatest countries in the world”. It is a phrase that rings with tragic irony today.