The daughter of a murdered Pakistani politician has vowed to continue her father’s campaign to eliminate the abuse of the country’s blasphemy laws.
In January of this year, Salman Taseer, the liberal-minded governor of the Punjab province and a very prominent businessman, was murdered by his own bodyguard after he (Taseer) spoke out against Pakistan’s laws on blasphemy, which, among other things, calls for the death penalty for anyone “insulting” Islam.
Critics charge that the law has been applied to punish religious minorities in Pakistan.
The murderer, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri (who shot Taseer 26 times with a submachine gun) has been hailed as a hero by many conservative Pakistani Muslims who have organized rallies to support him.
Shehrbano Taseer, Salman Taseer’s 22-year-old daughter, said she will continue to speak out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and other injustices.
However, she is well aware of the danger she places herself in because of her stance.
Shehrbano recently told RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty that there is an increase in radicalization in Pakistan. It's dangerous because we do not know the enemy any more -- he could be anywhere.
She attributed the radical extremist Islamic wing in Pakistan to the existence of Saudi Arabian-sponsored madrasahs, which spew venom and hatred left, right, and center.
Shehrbano added that her father spoke out frequently on behalf religious minorities, including Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, who are typically victimized by misuse of the blasphemy laws.
We live in a democracy and there is free speech, she noted.
While she is confident that Qadri will be punished for his crime, she is disturbed by the support he has received.
She said it was sickening for her to watch the lawyers garland Qadri, because these men are supposed to be the vanguards of justice in Pakistan, and it makes one wonder just how independent our judiciary really is.
(When Qadri appeared in court in January, lawyers and other sympathizers threw rose petals at him).
Regarding the extremists in Pakistan, Shehrbahno told reporters: “They are certainly loud, well armed and well funded but they are not a majority.”
She also blamed the media for her father’s assassination, citing that the fourth estate gave too much attention to “hot-headed right wingers, screaming bloody murder.”
“In a country that calls itself a democracy, the frontiers of expression have shrunk,” she added.
Shehrbano also asserted that despite having received death threats and disturbing letters, she refused to flee the country.
“We are Pakistanis; we will build our lives in Pakistan; we will live to better the lives of Pakistanis. We will not go anywhere,” she declared.
Pakistan “is a progressive Pakistan” she claimed and that the country will continue to evolve and move forward.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.