Sunday, January 23, 2011
Taseer was head of Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous state and a close friend of President Zardari. Most pertinent, he was a voice of Muslim moderation, arguably the most powerful one in the nation, who worked for a free society and defended the rights of non-Muslims and dissident Muslims. He had recently publicly supported a pardon for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy, and the repeal of the blasphemy laws themselves. In the closed circle of radical discourse, because he criticized those laws, he was himself labeled a blasphemer and killed.
The laws were introduced by General Zia ul-Haq after he took power in a coup in 1977, as an attempt to gain legitimacy by posing as a defender of Islam. Vaguely aimed at those who would insult Islam, the laws have led to horrific communal violence and have been applied against an ever expanding range of victims. This is why Taseer repeatedly called blasphemy legislation a “black law” and believed it was pivotal in determining the country’s future.