Robin Yassin-Kassab writes:
Salmaan Taseer, governer of Pakistan’s Punjab province, has been shot dead by one of his own security detail for the supposed crime of defending Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman threatened with execution under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The law was introduced by the British and given extra teeth by military dictator Zia ul-Haq, and is commonly used for the pursuit of grudges against the weak. The most disturbing aspect of Taseer’s murder is that both puritanical Deobandi and traditionalist ‘Sufi’ Barelvi religious leaderships have expressed support for it. Many Pakistanis are lionising Taseer’s murderer. For decades sections of Pakistan’s ruling elite have peddled religio-nationalist chauvinism as a stop-gap substitute for social justice. The result is today’s ugly combination of elite and mob rule. I reviewed a book by Taseer’s son here. Below, novelist Mohammed Hanif reports from Karachi:
Minutes after the murder of the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province Salmaan Taseer I saw a veteran Urdu columnist on a news channel. He was being what, in breaking news jargon, is called a “presenter’s friend”. “It is sad of course that this has happened but . . .”
I watched in the desperate hope that he wouldn’t go into the ifs and buts of a brutal murder in the middle of Pakistan’s capital. By this time we knew that Governor Taseer had been shot dead by a man in police uniform, probably one of his own police guards. The news ticker on screen informed us that the postmortem was under way. Later we would find out that he took 27 bullets. Not a single shot was fired by his security detail. It seemed too early for analysis, but the presenter’s friend looked mildly smug, as if he had been mulling over arguments in his head long before the governor was shot. Although it wasn’t required, the presenter egged him on. “But you see these are sensitive matters. He should have watched his words. He shouldn’t have spoken so carelessly.”
What were the late governor’s words? I knew about his outspoken stance on the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case. In a village near Lahore, she served water to some Muslim women who refused to drink it from her glass. (This is quite a common expression of prejudice against lower-caste Christians in Pakistan.) They argued. A couple of days later, the village mullah filed a case saying she had insulted our Prophet.
I knew about his habit of making fun of his political foes, mostly through Twitter. But I still wanted to find out what his exact words were. If a billionaire who is also a governor and enjoys the highest level of security imaginable in Pakistan, can be shot for saying something, it’s in everyone’s interest to find out what those words were. I mean what if you were to utter those words by mistake?
The presenter chipped in helpfully. “Yes, he did call our blasphemy law a black law.” Thoughtfully, the presenter’s friend nodded his head in agreement.
Murder solved. [Continue reading.]