Pakistan News: Salman Taseer Assassinated Over Blasphemy Laws
Pakistan News: Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer Assassinated Over Stance On Blasphemy Laws
Salman Taseer, the Governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab has been assassinated, shot dead by one of his own security guards. Salman Taseer, 56, was killed in a popular open air market in Islamabad.
Salman Taseer was a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and ally of the Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said Taseer's killer had confessed to killing the governor because of his opposition to Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, which have been denounced by international human-rights groups. The laws have been under particular scrutiny of late after a Pakistani Christian woman was condemned to death for allegedly defaming Islam.
This latest assassination is just more grim news for Pakistan as the coalition government is fragile, rocked by scandal, insurgents, and a financial crisis. The controversy surrounding the Blasphemy Law of Pakistan is another issue that is rocking the government.
Pakistan News: Blasphemy Laws
How long have they been around in Pakistan?
Pakistan's blasphemy law originated in the 1980s, when Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq led the country. He wanted to "Islamize" the country and instituted the law to promote Islam.
Are they really enforced?
According to one human rights group, 110 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan last year. Many of those accused of violating blasphemy laws are religious minorities, like Christians in Pakistan. No one has ever actually been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy law. People sentenced to death have always been released or had their sentences commuted. At least, that's been the case so far.
Why are they such a big deal now?
The recent case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to hanging for insulting the prophet, has sparked massive debate internationally and within Pakistan. She is currently in prison.
Salman Taseer was an outspoken critic of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan. Salman Taseer visited Asia Bibi in jail and spoke to NPR.
Before this, nobody was prepared to discuss this law. It will set the mullahs at your throat. And I said that she should be pardoned, and this is a travesty and shame that a poor woman like this who hasn't the means to defend herself [against] trumped-up charges," said Taseer,