The Governor of Punjab in Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by a policeman who fired twenty seven bullets before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to a dozen security policemen around him. The bodyguard was assigned to protect him that very morning. No other policemen tried to save the governor or rushed to stop the assassin.
The daughter of Taseer, Ms. Shehrbano, said “my father died for Pakistan”. Ney, Salmaan Taseer died for democratic probity of entire South Asian peoples who are under attack from communal and religious forces.
Conservatives of all colours and faiths are opposed to scientific restructuring of society. In passing away of Taseer the democratic probity is almost dead in Pakistan.
Salmaan was a self-made man, an intellectual, a media personality, a writer and above all the defender of human rights of poor and minorities. In 1960s, with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he founded the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. Salmaan had suffered imprisonment under the dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq He was tortured inside a Mughal-era dungeon in the historic Lahore Fort. The family was told that the Messenger of Peace was dead but he managed to smuggled out a note through the sweeper, “I’m not made from a wood that burns easily.”
Taseer’s comrade Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the Islamist dictator Zia. And when another military dictator Mussharraf ruled Islambad, Zulfikar’s daughter Benazir was assassinated in public.
This January 4, it was the turn of Salmaan Taseer. The communal forces in India had killed Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv. In Srilanka the killing of Bandernayakes was the work of Tamilian communal forces. But in Bangaladesh thousands of Bangli Muslims, and popularly elected President Dr. Mujibur Rahman and his family, were killed by the soldiers of the Islamic Republic.
But the Taseer helped the Ahmadia muslim minority when 86 of them were killed in their mosque in Lahore last May. On this occasion he had gone to visit a poor Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy. A cleric had announced a reward for anyone to kill the unarmed woman. But the governor had offered to forward her mercy petition to President of Pakistan. How this compassionate act of a kind man could offend any person of any Divine Faith. How could a wretched woman could insult the mighty name of the Prophet ( Peace be upon him). What blasphemy was committed by 300 unarmed women and children who were massacred in the Baslan village school in Chechnya. What insult to the prophet was meant by the 2000 years old Images of Buddha that were destroyed in the Islamic regime in Afghanistan.
There is no exclusive blood group which divides Shias and Sunnis, Muslims and Hindus, Jews and Arabs, Pakhtoons and Sindhis, Kashmiris and non-Kashmir, Marathis and Biharis, Aasameses and Bangalis. Thus, the politics of exclusive communal or religion has no place in 21st century governance. Denial of equal rights to women in a Muslim majority state is a clear violation of Human Rights. There can be no exclusive caste or religious rights in today’s scientific world order.
History teaches us not to repeat the past mistakes. In 1946, the initiators of civil war in Bangal (Noakhali) had said that they would prefer an Islamic desert than a world inhabited by the infidels. But then they did not have the means to rule the world. Today, the communal forces upholding weapons of mass destruction and missiles could indeed turn the entire sub-continent into a desert. Taseer too was a muslim but he stood for democratic probity against the bigotry of muslims. Therefore, any further concession to the Religious fanatics will be misconstrued as the weakness of the commitment to democratic scientific world order. That would further stimulate regional and religious strives.
Any group seeking exclusive regional or religious rights today if identify itself with an outdated belief system, so denies itself an equal place among the evolving democratic world order. In the 21st century Islamic history, Taseer had carried the Cross for very basic human rights and compassion. To honour the memory of the heroes of Democracy in South Asia, we vow to Salmaan Taseer that his martyrdom shall not go in vain.
There are no innocent followers of any faith, colour, race or religion. The Hindus burned the satis and “honour killings” are still happenings. In the 20th century, in the World Wars, white Christian Europeans had killed each other in the millions. And for centuries, the Arab muslims did the same to each other. Today, in the age of cybernetics, the world nations are evolving into secular Democratic social-political systems. Twenty six nation states of Europe have now come together into European Union. So to think of a modern Space Age political entity based on ancient religious paradigm is an irrational political reasoning. At this hour the leaders and intellectuals must uphold the constitutional probity by bring to justice those guilty of violence and disunity.
In fact, Pakistan and India are two states with one culture (do deshon ki ek aavaj). We are proud of multi-religious and multi-cultural heritage. Hindus feel no offence calling their Lord Krishna “Maakhan chor” (the butter thief). And Muslim saints, writers, actors, music maestros, leaders, ministers, and academics are loved and respected in the sub-continent. Yet, a democratic India is the only country in the world where like old times Whites Only, the state had built segregated Haj Air Terminus for Muslims Only. Human Rights campaigner, Ms. Asma Jahangir had rightly complained that Indian polity encourages (pampers) Muslim conservatism.
The fanatics forget that all of us are born of a human mother. Once a young girl asked Dr. Abdul Kalam, “Are you a muslim, Indian, Tamil, scientist, or the President of India?” “ I am a human being and that covers all the others”, replied the sage scientist Kalam.
To avoid a nuclear holocaust it is imperative that the South Asian states give up fighting for exclusive regional or religious identities.. We must prepare a roadmap for the Democratic South Asian Community based on feelings of friendship and goodwill for all faiths and religions.
Sher-e – Punjab Salman Taseer dedicated his life to the struggle for a democratic society where all citizens could enjoy equal rights, irrespective of gender, caste, region or religion. At this hour, to the family of Taseer, we offer our full support and condolences. We, the South Asian people will never let the religious fanatics of any colour to decide the destiny of future generations.