I wanted to celebrate Salmaan Taseer today. His immense love for Pakistan, his passion for life, his loyalty for and joy in the company of his friends, his brilliance as a businessman and most importantly his tremendous affection for his family. His great sense of humour, sometimes a little colourful but always very clever. His ability to enjoy every moment of every day – relax when he could and work very hard when needed. A really intelligent, well read man who had been jailed and tortured in General Ziaul Haq’s days. His family was educated and urbane though not moneyed. But the lack of financial resources was more than made up by his father’s erudition and his Uncle Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s brilliance.
But what is the need of the hour today is to remember why he died. Why each and every patriotic Pakistani who wants to live in a democratic nation with freedom and equality for all its citizens has been eliminated one by one.
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was a modern Muslim country where each and every citizen irrespective of religion, race or sex had an equal right. Unfortunately, we are still very far from that vision today. Anti-democratic forces have eliminated every leader and intellectual who has attempted to take Pakistan down the path of the Quaid’s vision.
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto attempted to fulfil the Quaid’s vision but was rewarded by judicial murder. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto followed in the path of the Quaid and her father.
Throughout her life Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto struggled against regressive forces to make Pakistan a better place for the members of every sect, religion, linguistic group and community. People of every creed, race, language and colour loved her. From Parachinar to Karachi she was the only voice of the oppressed people of Pakistan. She was and still is the symbol of the federation of Pakistan.
Shaheed Salmaan Taseer followed her and the Quaid’s vision. He was born in Simla, British India. His father, Muhammad Din ‘M D’ Taseer, obtained his PhD in England and was a close friend of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. His late mother, Bilqis Christobel Taseer, an Englishwoman, was the sister of late Alys Faiz. Mrs Faiz was herself a writer and poet and was married to Pakistan’s brilliant and beloved and also very political Urdu poet late Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Salmaan’s father died when he was only six and he and his sisters were brought up by their mother.
Salmaan Taseer believed in the Quaid’s vision and fought for those who did not have a voice. Salmaan Taseer’s services for the freedom of minorities and democracy are unrivalled. His was a bold voice ruthlessly silenced by elements desirous of making Pakistan an extremist theocratic state. These elements have always worked to hinder the process of democracy and harmonisation of religious sects in Pakistan. A sick zealot who thought he was doing God’s work murdered him in the cold light of day!
Till the day that Salmaan Taseer laid down his life he remained steadfast in his principles, emphatically raising his voice against oppression and religious intolerance. Mr Taseer’s assassination was aimed at creating an environment of fear and lawlessness and preventing others from speaking out as he did.
Apparently this was not enough for the extremists – PPP Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti – who I worked with on many issues and was one of the most hard working and respected members of the cabinet and of the National Assembly was shot dead on March 2, 2011. Mr Bhatti was the first Christian federal minister. He was also one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), an organisation set up in 1985. As someone who believed in the democratic system, Mr Bhatti constantly encouraged minority groups to fight for their rights through the political system instead of using violence. An admirer and believer in the Quaid’s vision, Mr Bhatti was a true patriot.
Today we see leaders and members of banned extremist groups in Pakistan openly attending and speaking at political rallies of supposedly mainstream parties. Guests on talk shows continue to support such candidates from across the political spectrum at election time.
Only the Quaid’s vision for Pakistan will save our beloved country. We need to fight for the very soul of Pakistan. That is what Salmaan Taseer and others did and they paid for it with their lives. We owe it to them to continue the struggle and to never give in.
This article appeared in the 4th January 2011 edition of Daily Times. Please click here to read the original article. The writer is a member of Pakistan’s parliament and spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari