01/05/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistani Christians remember Salman Taseer as extremists celebrate his assasin

by Jibran Khan
A year after the death of Governor of Punjab prayer vigils and demonstrations in many parts of the country. The family worried about the fate of his son Shahbaz, for over six months in the hands of his kidnappers. Bishop of Islamabad: "milestone" in the confessional killings. Fundamentalists offer 100 million rupees for the "holy pistol."
Lahore (AsiaNews) - The assassination of Salman Taseer, shot to death by a bodyguard January 4, 2011 in Islamabad, is a "milestone" in the history of confessional murders says Mgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of the capital, a year after the death of Governor of Punjab, who was killed for defending the Christian Asia Bibi and for calling for a review of the notorious blasphemy laws. "It has silenced - continues the prelate - all those who dared to take the word against fanaticism" and today "the followers of darkness are more brazen than ever." He adds that "there are many unresolved issues to be addressed" and "we must be able to talk without fear" for the good of Pakistan.

Salman Taseer was killed by a bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri for his positions in defense of women, the poor and Christians. On 4 March 2011, just two months later, the extremists even killed the Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, in a spiral of violence that affects anyone who is opposed to the infamous "Black Law" as it was called by the governor of Punjab.

Yesterday Taseer's family held a prayer vigil at their home in Calvary Ground, Lahore. Representatives of civil society and human rights groups accompanied the family to the man’s grave; their thoughts also on the fate of Salman Taseer’s son, Shahbaz, who was kidnapped last August and is still in the hands of his kidnappers. Government sources report that he is still alive and is being held in the tribal areas controlled by the Taliban.

Pervaiz Rafique, a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, speaks of Taseer's work in favor of the oppressed and for "the defense of an innocent woman [Asia Bibi]." He continues the politician, "did not changed his positions one iota " after taking office as governor, doing a lot of hidden work in the social and voluntary fields. The human rights activist and politician Zeeshan Joseph recalls Taseer’s vigorous defense "of a Christian woman," one of the reasons for his death, and calls for those who defend his assassin and exalt the crime to be punished.

The activists of APMA (All Parties Minorities Alliance) held a candlelight vigil near the Lahore Press Club, to pay homage to the memory of the governor.

However, the anniversary of the death of Salman Taseer has become the occasion of demonstrations and marches for the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, celebrating his assassin as a hero to be admired. The group Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Rasalat Mahaz (Tnrm) staged a demonstration in the center of Lahore. The leader Allama Muhammad Tahir Tabassum asked the government to auction the gun used to kill the governor and the Sunni Ittehad Council says it is ready to shell out Rs 100 million - more than a million dollars - to buy the "holy pistol ". Mumtaz Qadri was sentenced to death at first instance and the High Court in Islamabad has yet to begin the appeal process against him.

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