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Salman Taseer’s vigil cancelled by authorities

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News Analysis |

On Thursday, the police and district administration stopped members of the civil society from holding a vigil to mark the death anniversary of Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab who was mercilessly murdered by Mumtaz Qadri. Salman Taseer was very vocal about the immense need for the blasphemy laws to be amended. He was a strong proponent of Aasia Bibi, who was a Christian woman accused and imprisoned on the grounds of blasphemy.

It is important to note that out of the hundreds of blasphemy cases that are filed and heard in court, the greatest majority of persons accused of blasphemy belong to the Christian faith which constitutes less than 2% of the population begging the question of whether the blasphemy laws have been strategically used by some people to target and villainize the minorities in Pakistan.

The violence, derision and division that has resulted from the murder of Salman Taseer and the subsequent hanging of Qadri has created a dangerous situation in which everything hangs loosely in the balance.

The executive director for the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, Diep Saeeda stated that the civil society had planned to hold a vigil to mark death anniversary of Salman Taseer at Liberty Chowk in Lahore. These vigils for the slain former governor of Punjab have been taking place by various factions of the civil society throughout the country as a symbolic resistance to extremism.

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However, this year when Diep Saeeda wrote to the police and deputy commissioner to request adequate security for the event, she was not given a response and was disallowed from proceeding with the vigil.

In 2015, the activists were lighting candles when one man appeared out of nowhere pulled out a knife and tore the portrait of Salman Taseer while passionately shouting slogans praising Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri, was the bodyguard of the former governor of Punjab, who was given a death sentence by the Supreme Court and declared a terrorist.

“Will it not instill fear in the society if everybody starts taking the law in their own hands and dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy on their own rather than going to the courts?”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the defendant was not able to prove his case of blasphemy and rejected all appeals to repeal the death sentence. Qadri was executed on February 29th 2016 causing widespread outrage and civil unrest from all the religious factions in the country.

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The government banned his supporters from protesting a decision of the Supreme Court to no avail and also attempted to ban celebrations of the murder of Salman Taseer by the parties that wanted to do so. This landmark decision has caused an unprecedented divide between the religious and liberal circles and constant violence and chaos has erupted from the religious sympathizers of Qadri.

However, this year when Diep Saeeda wrote to the police and deputy commissioner to request adequate security for the event, she was not given a response and was disallowed from proceeding with the vigil.

When an appeal was filed against the death sentence of Qadri Justice Asif Saeed Khosa responded in the following words “Will it not instill fear in the society if everybody starts taking the law in their own hands and dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy on their own rather than going to the courts?” The violence, derision and division that has resulted from the murder of Salman Taseer and the subsequent hanging of Qadri has created a dangerous situation in which everything hangs loosely in the balance.

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Diep Saeeda informed sources that 10 to 15 policemen approached her office in Garden Town and detained her so she could not lead the peaceful vigil. Although she has been leading a vigil for Salman Taseer since his assassination she was completely disbarred from conducting the vigil this year which causes us to question exactly how successful have the religious parties been in paralyzing society by violently imposing the ideology of fear and the philosophy of intolerance.


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