Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke in London taking a strong public stand on the assassination of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, the issue of religious freedom, and a promise to defend the minorities of Pakistan against threat from extremists. In doing so he has removed all ambiguity in PPP stance on blasphemy and obscurantism. A full transcript of his speech is provided below.
“Beware! If anyone dare oppress a member of a minority or has usurped his or her rights, or tortured, or took away something forcibly, I will fight on behalf of the minority against the Muslim on the day of Judgment”. These are the words of my beloved Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
No one should ever imagine that any Muslim would ever allow our Holy Prophet or our religion to be insulted or blasphemed. My mother embraced martyrdom while defending our faith. She was martyred during her jihad against those who had hijacked our religion. Her’s was a peaceful jihad. She did not resort to violence. She was martyred because she spoke against the oppressors both those who ran our state and those who exploited Islam.
On January 4th Shaheed Salmaan Taseer was assassinated because he too refused to be silenced. He too insisted on defending our religion, he died defending the message of Islam, he died defending the words and actions of our beloved Prophet. He stood against those who claim to oppose blasphemy but in fact bring disrepute to Islam by allowing usurpation of people’s rights.
Shaheed Salmaan Taseer was the real Lion of Punjab. He was one of the few heroic politicians left in the ever-depleting pool of brave Pakistani politicians. At a time when evil masquerades as people of faith terrorizing all those who oppose or disagree with them, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer fought back. He spoke without fear. He defended those who could not defend themselves despite threats of violent retribution.
His murder is more than a political assassination. Like the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto it is a message. It is a message to all of us who believe in the peaceful teachings of our beloved prophet. It is a message to all of us who believe in democracy, justice and humanity, that the dark forces of violent extremism, intolerance and bigotry are intent on devouring our country and our faith. It is a message for us to remain silent and frightened in the face of terror and injustice. We have been threatened to either bow before this evil or be killed. But, in the tradition of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto we refuse to bow down.
I speak not as a politician for I am still a student. I am a student of the teachings of my Prophet and the words of Allah. I am a Pakistani student who still believes we can resurrect Jinnah’s Pakistan. I may be a student but I am also the son of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the Grandson of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. I will not be silenced by fear.
To those who dare attack my religion, especially those who corrupt its peaceful message, you are what I call covert blasphemers and you will be defeated. This shall be our jihad. Jihad against those who use our religion as a tool to justify their violence, suicide attacks and mass murder. They believe erroneously that their crimes will take them to heaven. Allah has promised them hell and we shall send them there.
To those who are praising or justifying these crimes, I say: you along with the killers of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer are the real blasphemers. Because of you the message of Islam is distorted in the eyes of the world.
Those who masquerade as people of faith but dare to threaten my fellow Muslims if they pray or grieve for Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, you are not serving Islam by any stretch of the imagination. No Muslim has the right to stop anyone from praying to Almighty Allah or from invoking praise upon His Holy Prophet (PBUH). You are suppressors of religious freedom, your façade shall be exposed, you have committed grave crimes against Islam, you too shall be defeated.
To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you. Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.
The only way to rid our country of all its ills is to ensure that democracy prevails. Thus I still stand by the slogan I raised after my mother was assassinated; Democracy is and always will be the best revenge. Anyone can hold rallies in support of Islam in a country dominated by Muslims and people will take part. Those who preach hatred in the name of Islam have never and will never enjoy the electoral support of the people of Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan yearn for peace, security and prosperity. They do not vote for violence and bloodshed.
The only way these beasts gain power is through dictatorship. We will never again let our country suffer as it did under the dark reign of Dictator General Zia-ul Haq. The children of Zia will continue to throw tantrums as we, the children of Bhutto continue to work for the resurrection of Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan.
We will not rest until we rid our constitution, our country and our way of life from the black stains Zia left behind.
The assassination of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer is not about the liberals vs conservatives or moderate Islam vs. radical Islam. It is about right and wrong. It is about the real Islam and a fictional Islam funded from abroad and espoused by violent extremists.
Shaheed Salmaan Taseer’s bravery will never be forgotten, his legacy as a defender of Islam, democracy and social justice will live forever.
His murderers will not be allowed to succeed in disrupting or destroying the democratic setup and the democratic principles we live by. Shaheed Salmaan Taseer will live on just as Shaheed Benazir Bhutto lives on in the hearts of every peace loving Pakistani.
This address was given by Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in London on 10 January 2011.