Wajid Shamsul Hasan: Taseer's assassination is a great loss for Pakistan

Share
Related Topics

The assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer is a great loss for the Pakistani nation, the Pakistan People's Party, President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the government. He was brave, courageous and daring—a great man who spoke for the rights of the people including minorities. He was totally committed to the high democratic ideals and the egalitarian vision of [Pakistan's founder] Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Salman was held in the highest esteem by the people who respected his boldness to proclaim loud and clear that he believed in liberal and secular politics. He was targeted for elimination for having defended the rights of minorities against discriminatory laws introduced by dictator General Ziaul Haq to terrorise the people into submission to his totalitarian rule.

I had the distinction of knowing Salman Taseer for 30 years as an unflinching fighter for democracy and defender of the rights of the people. He not only braved the worst persecution and prosecution at the hands of anti-democratic forces in power; he was tortured and given third degree treatment for his commitment to democracy. His tragic demise—a sacrifice in blood-- at this critical juncture when Pakistan is carrying on a battle to defend Islam's values of compassion and tolerance, to save the country from falling a victim to extremism—has carved for him a permanent niche in the hall of fame of those great leaders who preferred death to surrendering to obscurantist forces.

Besides being a political activist of the highest calibre, in his prime of life he was not only at the top of his profession as a chartered accountant of international stature, he also made his mark as an entrepreneur and contributed to objective and bold journalism through his newspapers Daily Times, Weekly Friday Times, the TV channels Auj Aur Kal and Business Plus.

As a politician he was a member of the Punjab provincial assembly, and suffered long periods of incarceration, braving torture inflicted on him in the dungeon of notorious Lahore's Old Fort—a hell on earth.

We shall always remember him by rededicating to his high ideals and pledge that his commitment to truth will be the agenda to follow—to pull out extremism from its roots - after all its perpetrators have penetrated deeply into our otherwise peaceful society.

His sacrifice will be remembered as a landmark in the ongoing battle for the survival of Pakistan and to return to the Quiad's vision. We will have to separate religion from politics. Those elements that create and nurture extremists and jihadis and the politicians and the people in the media who support religious extremism and incite violence will have to be isolated. This is the need of the hour. If we remain complacent and follow a policy of appeasement of running with the hare and hunting with the hound—we will end up sliding down the eddy of doom.

Salman Taseer was deeply preoccupied with the consequences of support given to the extremists from the days of General Zia. His warnings were apt: "Beware of the mullahs. They have to be confronted or they will take over our lives."

Taseer was a trusted associate of martyred Benazir Bhutto. According to the leading columnist/author Ahmed Rashed: "Taseer could talk for hours on his favourite subject: the price that Pakistan had paid for jihad and the need to turn back from this 'deadly legacy'".

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took to challenging the well-entrenched forces of the status quo, Salman became his staunch supporter and later after Bhutto's judicial murder he joined his daughter Benazir to continue the democratic mission of her father and to save Pakistan from falling into the hands of religious extremists god-fathered by General Zia.

Salman made his mark as an outstanding secularist in a country when there were very few who could speak out for fear of intimidating religious extremists. Many times he was warned that "they were after him". Always he brushed the death threats aside with contempt. Following Benair's footsteps, he preferred to do and die for the cause that was dear to him—secular democracy, empowerment of the poor, women and the less privileged.

The writer is High Commissioner for Pakistan to the UK

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral