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  • » 01/07/2013, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Punjab: Christians remember Salman Taseer and his courageous stance against blasphemy

    Jibran Khan

    Lahore priest slams murderer's hero status. In fighting against the 'black law', Punjab governor gave his life for Asia Bibi and minorities. The fate of his son, seized by an extremist group in August 2011, is still uncertain.

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "Two years since the governor's murder, his assassin is still portrayed as a hero. This is shameful," Fr Arshad John, a priest from the Lahore Archdiocese, told AsiaNews on the second anniversary of the death of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, killed on 4 January 2011 by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, one of his bodyguards.

    During his term of office, the slain governor built ties with Christian leaders. He also took up the case of Asia Bibi, describing blasphemy rules as a 'black law'.

    In Lahore and across Pakistan, various associations, activists and ordinary Pakistanis have held services and prayer vigils to honour Taseer's memory.

    Fr John called the late governor a courageous man who "knew how to resist despite pressures and threats."

    Like him, Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, "gave his life for the cause" and "his sacrifice shall not be in vain. His position on minorities will always be remembered."

    Salman Taseer fought to change the blasphemy law, which imposes life in prison or the death penalty on anyone desecrating the Qur'an or insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

    It has been used more often than not to settle personal scores or attack religious minorities, including Christians.

    One case that stands out is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, on whose behalf the governor devoted himself. For his action, he was sentenced to death in a fatwa issued by radical Muslim leaders.

    For many Pakistanis, his murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, is a "national hero". After being sentenced to death by a lower court, he is before the Islamabad High Court, but his appeal has not been set yet.  

    Meanwhile, the fate of Shahbaz Taseer, son of the slain governor, remains uncertain. The late governor's son was abducted by an extremist group in broad daylight on 26 August 2011.

    Little is known about his situation since then.

     

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    See also

    17/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Christian "blasphemer" dies of heart failure but relatives speak of poisoning
    For hospital staff, the jailed man died from heart failure, but his family note that he was threated after the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. Christian activists believe he is the latest victim of the blasphemy law. Now many fear for the life of Asia Bibi, next on the “list”.

    03/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Bhatti assassination: funeral tomorrow in Punjab as Muslims condemn the murder
    Pakistan’s Minority Affairs minister will be laid to rest in his native village. Hundreds of people protest in Islamabad, setting tyres on fire and shouting slogans. Muslim religious leaders and scholars deplore the “brutal murder”. The press slams a weak government, incapable of stopping the violence.

    15/03/2012 PAKISTAN
    Lahore: fear and angst among relatives of a woman arrested for blasphemy
    Shamim Masih has been in custody for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Local sources say she is being punished for refusing to convert to Islam. Her relatives are keeping silent for fear of retaliation. For Islamabad bishop, this is another case of abuse against Christians using the 'black law'.

    04/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Bhatti funeral: Christians angry when worshippers and relatives denied access to church
    Police seal off church after Prime Minister Gilani enters the building. Ordinary worshippers and relatives of the slain minister are kept outside. Christians react with outrage, close ranks around the family. The bishop of Islamabad says he lost a “son”. Speaking to AsiaNews, he blames the Interior minister for the minister’s death. Bhatti is laid to rest in Khushpur with thousands in attendance, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

    03/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law: Rehman withdraws proposed changes, as teacher denounces 17-year-old boy
    With her life threatened by Muslim fundamentalists, the PPP Member of the National Assembly accepts to toe the party line and accept the government’s view. Prime Minister Gilani confirms that changes will not be introduced. A student is arrested in Karachi for blasphemy after he is accused of insulting the name of Muhammad in an exam. Human Rights Watch calls the decision “truly appalling”.



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