01/05/2018, 13.27
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Activist detained in Lahore to prevent her from commemorating Salman Taseer

by Kamran Chaudhry

Saeeda Diep is the executive director of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. Each year, she organises a prayer vigil in memory of the late governor of Punjab, who was killed for defending Asia Bibi and challenging the country’s blasphemy laws. “There was no statement from the bishops,” priest says.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Saeeda Diep, a famous Pakistani activist, was detained yesterday by the Lahore police in her office for seven hours.

The agents prevented her from organising a prayer vigil to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Salman Taseer, a Punjab governor killed by his bodyguard in 2011 for defending Asia Bibi and challenging the "black law" on blasphemy.

Diep, the executive director of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, is a staunch supporter of human rights. Only a few days ago she defended the five intellectuals and bloggers who were exonerated of the accusation of "blasphemy on social media".

“About 20 policemen arrived in my office at 3:30 pm and stayed till 10 at night,” she told AsiaNews. “They also cordoned off my house. They said clerics will kill me if I organise the event. What a pathetic state of affairs. Not a single member of civil society or any of my friends tried to visit me.”

This is not the first time that the security forces tried to prevent her humanitarian activity. In 2015 she was attacked at the Liberty Roundabout in Lahore during a prayer vigil for Taseer. Since then, all the events that she organises are decided by mutual agreement with the police.

“This year I requested security at the Liberty Roundabout,” she noted. “Our organisation has been holding a candle light vigil on this day every year to show solidarity with the principles of tolerance, justice and humanism for which the late Salmaan Taseer laid down his life. A peaceful assembly was our right of expression”.

According to her, “Taseer’s tragedy has changed a lot of people. Ideas are bullet proof. He spoke for a marginalised community; the country’s leaders are usually silent on such issues.” 

The activist's efforts have been recognised at the national level. Shaan Taseer, son of the slain governor, also praised her action. “As always in eternal admiration of our comrades and patriots like Diep. My father's name scared General Zia in 1983, it scares the children of General Zia today,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Fr Abid Habib, former president of the Major Superiors Leadership Conference of Pakistan, condemned the action on Taseer’s death anniversary.

“This is very unfortunate,” said the Capuchin priest. “Taseer died speaking for Asia Bibi, a Christian and our community must carry his legacy. There was no statement from the bishops. The struggle against the black laws (on blasphemy) is not only necessary for religious minorities but is also necessary to save the country.”

“Very few Christians attended these events,” he noted. “Perhaps next year, the Church should officially remember Taseer and organise the event. I will try to motivate the bishops”.

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