Pakistan lost a brave man today.
Punjab Governor Salman Taseer died after he was shot nine times by his bodyguard outside of Kohsar Market in Islamabad Tuesday, reported news sources. According to the Guardian, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the gunman, Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, told police he had killed Taseer for “criticizing the country’s blasphemy legislation,” calling them kaala qanoon (“black laws.”)
Taseer became increasingly vocal against the blasphemy laws after Aasia Bibi became the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death, allying “with rights activists, critics and several government officials in urging the government to repeal or revise” the legislation. His courage to stand up against the religious intolerance in the country was met with protests, and the NY Times reported that effigies of the Punjab Governor were burned in protests last Friday.
But Taseer would not back down, encouraging others to take to the streets against the laws [to learn more about this upcoming protest in Karachi on January 15th, see Five Rupees]. Just last week, he tweeted to his followers, “I was under huge pressure… 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”
His words, though chilling, should remind us all of Salman Taseer’s bravery, his conviction, and his determination to stand up against the intolerance and discrimination that has long crippled this country.
I am deeply saddened by this tragedy, but I am also disgusted by those who continue to hide their own blasphemous faces behind the blasphemy laws, who use violence to mask their own cowardice. I am disgusted that Salman Taseer was one of only a few brave enough to stand up to the religiously bigoted, while others stood silent. And finally, I am disgusted by those who would rather speak ill of the dead and defile Taseer. Put aside your pettiness and have some respect.
Salman Taseer died a martyr today, and our condolences and prayers go out to his family. His death is a tremendous loss for Pakistan and for the fight to amend the blasphemy laws, but it is one that should mobilize us all to take a stand. Or else we all will have blood on our hands.