01/07/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

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

by 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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