Monday, April 11, 2011

Article in Indian Express Jan 5, 2011

Rashed Rahman
Tags : Salmaan Taseer killed, Daily Times, Elite Police Force guards

Posted: Wed Jan 05 2011, 04:16 hrs
The whole country has been shaken and sent into new depths of depression and gloom by the assassination of Governor, Punjab, and publisher of Daily Times Salmaan Taseer. A man of conviction and courage, Salmaan Taseer was gunned down by one of his own Elite Police Force guards. The assassin, after the dastardly deed, surrendered to the police. He has stated that he had killed Taseer because he had called the Blasphemy Law a black law.

The incident shows that the fanatical mindset has now permeated broad sections of our society. The Governor’s defence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death by a lower court on alleged charge of blasphemy, prompted the religious lobby to condemn him. Fatwas were issued calling for his death, and many of our ‘heroes’ of the electronic media joined the chorus of condemnation of the Governor for his bold stand in defence of a poor, helpless Christian woman. Much food for thought here for those still capable of thinking in our increasingly irrational society.

Salmaan Taseer grew up in straitened family circumstances due to the untimely demise of his father, famous intellectual Dr M D Taseer. His mother, Chris, struggled in penury to bring up her three children, Salmaan and his two sisters. From such humble beginnings, Salmaan went on to qualify as a chartered accountant from England, set up his own accountancy firm on returning to Pakistan, and ventured into the (then) booming Gulf States to build a business base that later catapulted him into the ranks of the captains of industry and commerce in Pakistan.

His association with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was both emotional and consistent. He was the author of a book on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whom he greatly admired. He was also a prolific reader and writer, and a man who never shrank from expressing his firmly held opinions without fear. This boldness often landed him in trouble.

Arrested during the MRD movement of 1983 by the Ziaul Haq military regime, he was subjected to torture in the notorious Lahore Fort. Undeterred, he rose to become the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly in 1988, a stint that sealed his enmity with then chief minister, Punjab, Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N. For his outspoken criticism of the Sharif government from the floor of the Assembly and outside, Salmaan was beaten black and blue by the Punjab government’s goons, suffering fractures in the process.

None of this broke his spirit though. He concentrated on building up his business empire, and then re-entered the political fray as a federal minister in the caretaker government that oversaw the elections of February 2008. Later, in May 2008, he was appointed Governor, Punjab, by the PPP-led government, an office he held until his untimely death.

For his boldness and courage of conviction, friendship and generosity, fearless advocacy personally and through his media group (which includes Urdu daily Aaj Kal and TV channel B-Plus) of liberal causes, Salmaan Taseer will live on in our hearts and memories.

God grant his family the strength to bear this irreparable loss.

Rest in peace, my friend.

(The writer is Editor, Daily Times, Lahore)

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