Salmaan Taseer assassinated for blasphemy stance
Padraig Reidy: Salmaan Taseer assassinated for blasphemy stance
04 Jan 11

The dark forces of religious extremism have once again struck in Pakistan, with the assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

Taseer was apparently killed by a guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. As is inevitable these days, a Facebook page has now been set up in support of the alleged assassin, stating: “We Support the action of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri and want that Supreme Court of Pakistan take immediate action against his arrest and order to free him.”

Qadri is reported to have said he was motivated by Taseer’s stance against Pakistan’s rigid blasphemy laws. Blasphemy can carry the death sentence in Pakistan, though no one has yet been executed under the law.

The Washington Post’s Greg Linch has compiled several of Taseer’s anti-blasphemy law tweets here. Taseer also pledged support to Punjabi Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who was convicted of blasphemy late last year.

In an interview with Pakistan’s Newsline in December, Taseer was asked if he was worried about fatwas issued against him. He replied:

People also issued fatwas against Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They issued fatwas against basant. These are a bunch of self-appointed maulvis who no one takes seriously. The thing I find disturbing is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask how many of them are well-to-do? How many businessmen? Why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50% of them are Christians when they form less than 2% of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is misused to target minorities.

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.