Pakistani police officers cordon off the site where Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was shot dead by one of his guards, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. – AP

The assassination of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer this afternoon in Islamabad by an armed guard reportedly deputed for his security raises the fundamental issue once again: that religious indoctrination is feeding the fires of hatred and intolerance. Although details as to the motive of the crime have yet to emerge, by the very trappings it seems little else but a crime of hate.

Mr Taseer had few friends left in his last days. His outspoken defence of the Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy under questionable charges leveled against her by fellow Muslim villagers and who has been on the death row in a Punjab prison for over a year awaiting appeal in a higher court, made him a hate figure for extremist and Islamist outfits and parties. Major religious parties called out nationwide strikes on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to demand Aasia Bibi’s execution under the controversial blasphemy law, and to condemn her sympathisers, Mr Taseer being one of the foremost public figures amongst the latter group and thus the object of hate.

He, along with the PPP MNA Sherry Rehman, who has courageously sought to repeal or amend the blasphemy law, have been the only leaders to openly oppose the controversial law, like Benazir Bhutto before them had opposed extremism and Talibanisation and paid for it with her life, while a deafening silence prevails on the subject within the ranks of the PPP itself.

On the political front too Mr Taseer became a controversial figure in his home province the day President Zardari appointed him the governor in Punjab to watch over a provincial government led by his political arch rivals, the Sharif brothers. The sacking of Shahbaz Sharif’s government in 2009, the imposition of governor’s rule and then the restoration of Mr Sharif under court orders in March 2009 as the chief minister, added to the political bitterness that existed between Mr Taseer and the Sharifs. There was little love lost between the rivals till the time of Mr Taseer’s assassination, with no signs of any rapprochement on the anvil whatsoever.

Of late the Sharifs responded to Mr Taseer’s political opposition to their way of governance by resorting to means that were both unfair and untenable. Often volleys were fired at his personality, and his family’s lavish and somewhat indulgent—read ‘un-Islamic’— lifestyle. Only last month Mr Taseer was accused of having left the country without informing the Punjab government in breach of the state protocol; a sustained media campaign followed which despite its best efforts failed to prove that Mr Taseer had gone abroad. Earlier photographs of his family partying away in the privacy of their home were placed in the media. Mr Taseer had the courage and the old world grace not to be bogged down or issue a denial in the face of such ungainly criticism that was clearly below the belt.

The Islamists openly called for his dismissal from the office for supporting the case of the Christian convict, for seeking presidential pardon for her, if it should come to that, and for being a vociferous opponent of the so-called Islamic laws that were introduced by Gen Ziaul Haq and which at best have remained highly controversial. A few also threatened to try Mr Taseer for condoning blasphemy against Islam. But he in that ideological sense represented the somewhat traditional liberal stance of the PPP, which the party itself has not truly been very comfortable with of late.

It remains to be seen what actually motivated the killer to open fire on Mr Taseer, inflicting a fatal wound, but it is not far from informed conjecture to say at this point that the motivation could have most likely been religious intolerance which leads to extreme reactions. The trend is rampant nowadays, and has led to wholesale killing of citizens, attacks on Sufi shrines and places of worship of rival Muslim sects, and of the minorities.

This is partly because hypocrisy takes the best of many politicians from across the spectrum. Even non-religious parties like the MQM, the PML-N and the PML-Q, could be seen losing their composure when it comes to issues such as demanding the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui from her American prison, citing little else in her defence besides her bona fides as a Muslim woman convict, but in reality wishing to add to the woes of their political rivals’ government. Similar is the stance taken on American drone attacks, even though everyone knows that Pakistan Army provides or shares the intelligence over which such aerial strikes are carried out against extremist elements.

Back to Mr Taseer’s assassination, it was rather uncanny to overhear a conversation that I did between two security guards outside the building they were deputed to guard, within minutes of the news of Mr Taseer’s death breaking. One guard congratulated the other on the assassination while the other responded by saying that the killer was indeed a very courageous man, God be praised.

This is not the country that makes one feel very safe.

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Comments (85)

January 4, 2011 7:59 pm
TV channels which are never late in declaring one shaheed do not have to the courage to call Salman shaheed. This is a society which has been hijacked by extremists
January 4, 2011 8:04 pm
"This is not the country that makes one feel very safe." True.
January 4, 2011 8:21 pm
This is the time for decent and most silent population to stop people promoting hatred, frustration. Its a combine effort to through pessimism out of the society.
Shaheryar Ali
January 4, 2011 8:27 pm
Another true Shaheed, who got martyred fighting extremists.
Babar N Khan
January 4, 2011 8:36 pm
All hail Murtaza Sb..after reading your article on Quaid's b-day, ' What about Jinnah's Pakistan?', I admire your courage and immediate response to this heinous today's events reflect on your earlier views, it is an eye opener for ppl in power and ppl with wisdom and intelligence..with you and some of us around, there may be still hope against religious extremism..keep up the great work !
January 4, 2011 8:50 pm
A quote from salman "You live life once, you live it by your principles and you live it courageously -- that's what it's about." Salman shaheed you were a man of did it.
January 4, 2011 9:00 pm
He will be dearly missed. He was my leader. RIP This is just a sad day today that a sane voice has been silenced and extremism seems to be winning at the moment which will envelop our country very soon if we don't open our eyes to this evil.
January 4, 2011 9:25 pm
This is an unfortunate incident.I am from India and I pray that his family cope with this sad loss.May his soul rest in peace.
Syed Muhamamd Furqan
January 4, 2011 9:25 pm
We deployed time bombs in the foundations of Pakistan by building these extremists.Now we have to face the music..
dushman e zamana
January 4, 2011 9:33 pm
the end is near
January 4, 2011 9:53 pm
Salman Taseer will live in our hearts forever..
Faisal Sheikh
January 4, 2011 10:12 pm
My thoughts and sympathies are with the late Salman Taseers family. He was a flawed genius but a top notch professional and world class business man. I had the honour of working for Taseer Hadi Khalid, one of the leading Audit / Consulting firms he set-up in Pakistan. May Allah forgive and bless him. Ameen. Suma Ameen.
January 4, 2011 10:17 pm
I am extremely sad to hear this news. He was a courageous leader who spoke his mind unlike other politicians who are hijacked by the extremists. I long for a Pakistan where people could live and visit peacefully.
January 4, 2011 10:45 pm
lets hope his sacrifice does not go in vain and Pakistan remain free country as visioned by Jinnah and does not fall into hands of fanatics.
January 4, 2011 11:00 pm
how can you say him shaheed?
Ahmed Hassan
January 4, 2011 10:54 pm
An exceptional entrepreneur of Pakistan wasted away. How long will we be held hostage to this?
Jay Shah
January 4, 2011 11:02 pm
5-10 years plan for Pakistan to fight extremism 1 - Ban all religious parties. 2 - Separation of religion & state 3 - Register all mosques and set rules for the Imams 4 - Remove all kind of religious educational material from schools 5 - Educate all citizens
January 4, 2011 11:10 pm
give up. go back to the stone age.
January 4, 2011 10:59 pm
Exactly the kind of ignorance that is eating us down from within..from the media , from the society, from the politicians, army etc...just turn a blind eye to it.
January 4, 2011 11:08 pm
Another moderate son lost! May you rest in peace, amen.
January 4, 2011 11:25 pm
We are paying the price of what we have sowed over last 30 years. This is a very sad incident and exemplifies how hate crimes have inflected this nation. Agree with author conclusion
January 4, 2011 11:15 pm
Shame on all Pakistanies including myself.
January 4, 2011 11:19 pm
This is one another sad demise in the history of pakistan which leaves the nation under great grief. however, our unfortunate land has not remained a place where one can imagine to live peaceful. May Allah live long our lovely homeland and save from futher dishormony. Ameen
Shehryar Khalid Rao
January 5, 2011 12:01 am
The end paragraph is a clear example of how the educated lot can write from the safety of their computers and pour contempt on the average man but are never willing or courageous enough to act. if you heard these two guards was it not your duty as a educated, read enlightened, citizen of this country to have at least a discussion with these guys on what freedom of speech really means. was it also not your duty to at least try and talk some sense into them and show them the fallacy of their praises to God. was it not your duty to try and reason with them on the basis that a man (even Salman Taseer) had to be proven guilty before they could pass judgement and rejoice on his murder. the entire nation is afflicted with the same disease - all talk and no action and maybe thats why the fanatic mullah is winning
Arshad Zaidi
January 5, 2011 12:05 am
I really don’t feel secured to post any comments here. There is just too much religious fanaticism in Pakistan.
January 4, 2011 11:23 pm
As a Christian I salute Mr. Taseer's courage to speakup for our rights and against those extreamists who have divided our country on religious lines for their own agendas. They are murderers and killers of innocent people both Christians and Muslims. May God bring those responsible to justice. My heart goes out for his family. May God bless them with His peace and comfort them.
January 4, 2011 11:24 pm
Pakistan is not far away becoming Next Afghanistan.....Pakistan is the only country which is progressing backward!!!
January 5, 2011 12:10 am
this is shocking!!! indeed when security guards congratulate each other on an assissination.. it is not a safe country anymore. one only wishes there are real courageous leaders to stand up to these islamists who give islam as well as pakistan a bad name.
January 5, 2011 12:12 am
very shocking news...! totally unexpected!!!
January 4, 2011 11:36 pm
All Islamic parties should be banned from politics. I had met Mr. Taseer once and with all his political shortcomings he was at least genuine in putting brakes on the religious extremism that is killing society from within. May God bless his soul.
January 4, 2011 11:41 pm
We as a nation have become a sandwich between liberal and religious extremists.
Salman Khan
January 4, 2011 11:50 pm
Shows the progress in the Talibanization of Pakistan. At this rate, Pakistan will soon be another Afghanistan
January 4, 2011 11:51 pm
another huge setback for Pakistan and the world
January 4, 2011 11:58 pm
Salman Taseer may your soul rest in eternal peace farther from the society that is proud of its barbarism.....
January 5, 2011 12:17 am
This is not the country where i want to be. I'm not affiliation with any political party but this act of brutality is worth condemning. what a shame: we are killing our own countrymen. WE need to flourish Tolerance in the society, and it is MEDIA who can DO IT.
January 5, 2011 12:22 am
What bigger dilemma can it be for a nation where even after somebody loosing his life we are not clear whether it is right or wrong!
January 5, 2011 12:22 am
Taimur: I do not believe Salaman would like to be called a Shaheed.
Azhar Hussain
January 5, 2011 12:28 am
The present left behind by Zia-ul-Haq. All those who were indoctornated in the 80's are coming of age. These hate filled youth educated by uneducated mullah should all be put behind bar and left there to rot.
Dr Nadim Akhtar
January 5, 2011 12:31 am
I fully agree with Taimur's comments. Salman Taseer is a Shaheed who gave his life trying to save a Christian woman from a "Kala Kanoon" The blood of Salman is on the hands of all religious leaders who have been busy preaching hatred on the blasphemy issue over the past few days. They can enjoy your Halva now.
January 5, 2011 12:33 am
Islam is a problem in Pakistan. Pakistan will likely be consumed in flames of Islamic hatred and violence and from those ashes, a new secular and progressive Pakistan will emerge. Expect this to happen in about 2050.
January 5, 2011 12:42 am
Murtaza excellent work. We have let the hypocrite Mullahs walk all over us. They are now sitting on our chest and want more. It's either do or die time now. Salman Taseer's murder in cold-blood must be a catalyst for action against these mullahs. He wasn't the victim of a bullet. As you have clearly opined, it was the extremism produced by the bed-fellowship between the Army and the Mullahs..
January 5, 2011 12:51 am
If the overheard words were true, it establishes the fact that the killer was not alone, instead had sympathies and possibly active support of his co-gaurds.
January 5, 2011 12:52 am
If the overheard words were true, it establishes the fact that the killer was not alone, instead had sympathies and possibly active support of his co-gaurds.
January 5, 2011 1:04 am
I want to ask the one question from the so called Islamists, how many peoples were killed in in era of Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) and his four Caliphs under blasphemy? I'm very sad because one of out spoken person we lost
January 5, 2011 1:05 am
very sad day indeed for this unfortunate land! may God bless his family and rest the departed soul in eternal peace.
January 5, 2011 1:07 am
I think assasination of Mr Taseer is another example of intolerance that is prevalent in Pakistani society. The politicians use religion to shine their political careers, and have no shame in instigating violance regardless of what Islam teaches. Pakistan will never join civilized nations of the world unless we stop using religion as an excuse to futher our agendas.
January 5, 2011 1:11 am
He will be missed. Those who support his killing are cowardly and bigoted
A. Ahmad
January 5, 2011 1:15 am
At least he had the courage to stand up for what he believed in. Can someone save this country from extremism??
mohammad ajmal
January 5, 2011 1:17 am
It is time some body to wake up to scourge of sectarianism. Strong voice from political and religious is required, together with correcting controversial laws. correct the education in madrasahs. Ask mosque Imams to teach illitrate masses correct Islamic teachings, which are without any hatred or terrorism. Suicide bombings is illegal, as suicide person is not entitled to funeral prayer even. Please try to correct tide, before it is too late. Ajmal
January 5, 2011 1:22 am
A sad sad day for "Jinnah's Pakistan".
January 5, 2011 1:41 am
I whole heartedly sympathize with the family of the slain Governer And also with the patriotic Pakistanis who know that their country ha s been hijacked by intolerant enemies of Pakistan.
January 5, 2011 1:47 am
Very true. And those who're not extremists are going to sit still and let the time pass until these people come to our very doorstep.
Ali Buttar
January 5, 2011 1:49 am
The killer should be given a public hanging. To send out a message to all illiterate insane molvis. Islam is being defaced by intolernce and other leaders are staying quite. I dont care what kind of a person Salman Taseer was but he is allowed to have an opinion. "When good people do nothing evil prevails", Edmund Burke
January 5, 2011 1:54 am
he was a great man he was standing for his believe i wish Pakistan should have more people like him .
January 5, 2011 1:54 am
A pity... Reminds me of a an old limerick "There was a young lady of Niger Who smiled as she rode on a tiger; They returned from the ride With the lady inside, And the smile on the face of the tiger. " The tiger is fundamentalism and I leave it to the readers to guess who the youn g lady is.
January 5, 2011 1:56 am
this is a sad news.
January 5, 2011 2:04 am
We have been in this trauma because we've handed our control to elements not benevolent for us nor for the humanity at large.
January 5, 2011 2:04 am
Very disturbing and sad incidence. The responses by many over youtube / fcebook celebrating the incidence and the so called act of bravery of Mr Qadri are heartbreaking ....... Illetracy and poverty are definite contributors but ultimately we are fast becoming a nation of hypocrats with serious lack of tolerance and respect for fellow human beings.
HM, Canada
January 5, 2011 2:28 am
We condemn the killing. I have not seen condemnation by any Mulla. What a shame. Govt. is corrupt ... yes... but right wing leaders have bloods on their hands. Where are so called religious parties.... Do you see any good in all this extremism ???
Saleem Jutt
January 5, 2011 2:26 am
"One guard congratulated the other on the assassination while the other responded by saying that the killer was indeed a very courageous man, God be praised." Pakistan has entered into a dark chapter. While Afghan society is fighting to be rid of extremism it has become an integral part of Pakistani society. Watch and learn when you see who in words and deeds condemn the murder of the Governor of Punjab.
Zafar Malik
January 5, 2011 2:27 am
Enough is enough. Patriotic Pakistanis have no options left, either they have to surrender to the forces of Religious/Islamic Fascism and do what they want, or get ready for a bitter fight. The Facists are trying to return the country back to stone age. Let us tell them in clear words that we will not tolerate their fascist ideology, in the guise of Islam, we want a Secular and Progressive Pakistan. This is the only way to honour Salman Taseer.
January 5, 2011 2:56 am
Mr.Taseer was wrongfully murdered, he had the courage to speak against blashemy law, where everyone was too scared to speak for it. Allalh unko jannat naseeb karai.
January 5, 2011 3:42 am
Now that the killer told police the motive of his action, the first step should be to arrest the Imam of the mosque he goes. That person should be questioned and if found guilty of spreading hatred, be hanged to set an example for those so-called 'religious scholars'. When do our rulers start to think that enough is enough.
Ammar Bilgrami
January 5, 2011 3:55 am
It is so sad this guy took a stand on Humanitarian grounds to save a human not a ( Christan , Jew or Muslim ) this is what blind hate full extremism do
January 5, 2011 4:22 am
The governor although not unblemished stood up for a just cause, the blasphemy law is unislamic and misused. The struggle for the tolerance and compassion of Islam - true message of a Prophet sent as mercy to humanity shall continue, despite misguided, ignorant and callous acts like the one resulting in Salman Taseers death :(
Ahmed Khan
January 5, 2011 4:24 am
It is clear that Pakistan is not safe place, it has been hijacked by the extremists due to the policies of Gen Zia with the collaboration of religious parties. TV anchors have no courage to say him shaheed because majority of them are representing the religious extremist. They are spokesperson of jihadis. Salman (Shaheed) has proved himself that he is the true son of soil and son of Prof. M D Taseer. I appreciate to all those loyal persons who are criticizing the policies of Gen Zia and advocating for liberalizing the society.
January 5, 2011 8:33 am
Some nice points in the article. It's just dripping with a lot of PPP love for an independent article. Let me be the 1st to say I've not been an admirer of Mr.Taseer and after his death I'll not try to make a saint out of him. However, he was absolutely spot on blasphemy law. As Mr.Taseer said, it's not a God made law but a man made law and It's essentially used for witch hunting. With all this religious fanaticism I am coming to the point of "losing my religion". And whatever other shortcomings Mr.Taseer may have had one has to admit he was courageous.
Saad Salman Zia
January 5, 2011 9:16 am
This is a day of shame for the whole nation. People jubilating at his tragic demise show the extent of moral decay in our intolerant nation. We wish death upon anyone who disagrees with what we believe to be true. Shame on us all.
January 5, 2011 9:27 am
Democracy will not work.... only way pakistan could be saved is through benevolent dictatorship... We desperately need a Ata Turk....
January 5, 2011 10:16 am
Mullahs who influence, glorify and celebrate such actions of killing should come forward and present themselves to be hanged along with their 'hero'. For them it should be a very tempting chance of one way ticket to their paradise. If they have the guts?
Sandip Khanna
January 5, 2011 10:29 am
Pakistan is being fed to the wolves, piece by piece. God save Pakistan from itself.
Saleem B
January 5, 2011 10:32 am
Mr. Taseer was a brave man and lone voice of sanity is this rampant madness....very sad day indeed for this unfortunate land. may God rest the departed soul eternal peace and grant strength to his family to bear this irreparable loss.
saqib shah
January 5, 2011 10:55 am
y only leftist politicians get killed not the conservative ones? because we leftists do not kill anyone! only conservatives do. we believe in civilized debate!
January 5, 2011 11:24 am
All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing. It is time that Pakistani people wake from their sleep of about 40 years and san no to extremism.
January 5, 2011 11:38 am
cannot believe that what just happened..... still trying to comprehend the loss of source of inspiration ....!!!!
January 5, 2011 11:41 am
at this rate not sure how many sane people will be left, plain sad ;(
January 5, 2011 12:13 pm
Mr. Salman Taseer , was blessed by Allah to defend the weak in a very courageous and open way, and Allah swt accept his shahadat. He may have done errors in his life, but his Shahadat has overcome all the mistakes of his past. He is indeed a shaheed in every sense of the word.
Anil Dogra
January 5, 2011 12:23 pm
If these things continue, Pakistan will be left with only Extremists and everyone else will run away.
January 5, 2011 12:24 pm
Salman Taseer was a priceless gem, it's sad that Pakistan has lost him...
January 5, 2011 12:44 pm
the sad part is that only the guards mentioned in the article reflect how ignorant our society is about this scenario but some educated people also hold the same view. this brings me to a point of sheer frustration and helplessness.
Asim Ali
January 5, 2011 2:41 pm
Very sad day for Pakistan. Extremism or ignorance is taking over. This is what happens when you build castles in the air. This is Generals Zia Pakistan. Which General will now give us Jinnah's Pakistan?
January 5, 2011 7:55 pm
Salman Taseer blood should not go in waste it is now our duty to fight against all forms of extremism may God rest his soul in eternal peace
January 5, 2011 8:26 pm
This is a murder. No ifs or buts. Speedy trial, hang him if found guilty and bury him in a unmarked grave.
January 6, 2011 6:34 pm
I was never impressed by the governer but on his death i like to slute him for his courage to fight for the right.
January 8, 2011 3:06 pm
We have lost another brave person in this countary who has been hijecked by the extremists.
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