ISLAMABAD: The events of last one-and-half months after the famous Aasia Bibi blasphemy case surfaced clearly show that the stance of Governor Salman Taseer over blasphemy law and opposition by religious quarters created a wave of hatred against the assassinated governor among the religiously mobilised masses.
The governor, on occasions, tried to dispel this perception by saying that he only wanted changes in the blasphemy law which was introduced by a dictator, Ziaul Haq and was not in favour of abolishing the law. A brief chronology of the events has been mentioned below to give a picture of the events that led to Taseer’s assassination.
After a sessions court of Nankana Sahib awarded death sentence to a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi on November 11, 2010, the assassinated Governor Taseer appeared for the first time on November 20 when he went to Sheikhupura jail to meet Asia Bibi. There he termed blasphemy law as a “black law” and received application of pardon from Aasia Bibi in jail and promised publicly to officially forward it to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari saying that the president was legally and constitutionally empowered to pardon Asia who is poor, innocent and illiterate.
On the same day Taseer said that the Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, now retired, should have taken a suo moto notice of the death sentence awarded to a Christian woman. The newspapers quoted Taseer as saying: “The LHC chief justice should take suo moto notice immediately and not ignore the possibility of pressure that might have forced the judge to award death sentence to Aasia.” He said that the blasphemy law was enacted during the dictatorial regime of General Ziaul Haq and the said law only promoted extremism and quarrels among Islam and other religions and the constitution and Islam called for protection of minorities’ rights.
On 23rd of November, 2010 Salman Taseer in a television interview said that the country was being criticised in the whole world because of Ziaul Haq’s black law and Aasia Bibi was innocent. He said that he had put forward the pardon request of Aasia Bibi and President Zardari has assured him that Aasia will not be hanged.
On the same day Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat issued a decree that Salman Taseer termed blasphemy law as a black law therefore he no more remains a Muslim. They urged the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice and remove Taseer from his slot. Pir Afzal Qadri threatened that there were many Ghazi Elim Din Shaheeds, the man who killed a Hindu writer for blasphemy, therefore the rulers should realise the sentiments of the nation. He even said that neither prime minister nor president has any power to pardon Aasia Bibi.
On the same 23rd November Majlis-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat announced that one who will pardon a blasphemer will also no more remain a Muslim. The Governor House received threats of bomb blast and its security was beefed-up.
On November 24 Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz organised protests throughout the country against the act of Salman Taseer to save Aasia Bibi. Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool’s central leader Qari Sheikh Yaqoob demanded death punishment for Salman Taseer along with Aasia Bibi. National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony’s Shafique Raza Qadri announced that one who helps a blasphemer is also equally responsible.
Many Ulema in Lahore including Mufti Mustafa Ashraf Rizvi, Maulana Ghulam Hussain Qadri, Maulana Saleemullah Khan, Mufti Naeem Akhter Qadri, Mufti Asif Raza Qadri, Qari Muzafar Hussain Kharal, Mufti Safdar Ali Kazmi, Mufti Muhammad Ali Qadri, Mufti Muhammad Khan and Allama Mufti Altaf Hussain issued a decree that Taseer remains no more a Muslim for helping Aasia Bibi and terming blasphemy law, a black law. The decree also said that the marriage contract of Salman Taseer has also become void.
On the same day, the PPP Punjab Secretary Information Fukhruddin Chaudhry announced that the decrees against Governor Taseer were of no value and those issuing these edicts were the same people who issued decrees against Quaid-i-Azam and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
On November 25, Governor Salman Taseer said that he went to meet Aasia Bibi for the sake of humanity only and the blasphemy law was man-made and not God-given, adding that his meeting with Aasia Bibi was being politicised. Taseer clarified that no Muslim could even imagine blasphemy, adding that the issue important for him was reviewing the blasphemy law. “Even now, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, Nilofer Bakhtiar, Sherry Rehman and others have talked about bringing a change in this law,” he added. On the same day the activists of religious parties staged a demonstration in Toba Tek Singh against reports of possible pardon and release of a death convict for blasphemy. Speakers warned Governor Salman Taseer not to campaign for the release of death convict Aasia Bibi of Sheikhupura in the blasphemy case. On November 29, Salman Taseer while talking to media said that decrees were being issued against him for helping a poor, illiterate and helpless Christian woman. He said that Islam preaches harmony and peace.
On 30th December, the governor while addressing the convocation of Fatima Jinnah Women University said that the illiterate mullahs can not expel anyone from Islam. “I am answerable to Allah and not to mullahs,” the governor said.
On December 3, 2010 in an effort to dispel negative propaganda being carried out by certain quarters, Salman Taseer made it clear that he was in favour of reviewing a few controversial clauses of the blasphemy law, and never demanded the doing away with the blasphemy law. “This is absolutely not a bad demand. My views have been endorsed by PML-N’s Ayaz Mir, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, PPP’s Sherry Rehman and PTI chief Imran Khan.”
On December 7, office-bearers of Milli Majlis-e-Shariah said that the governor Punjab, by meeting Aasia Bibi, has himself committed not only the contempt of court but also blasphemy. They warned the rulers not to amend the said law and also asked President Zardari not to pardon Aasia rather let the case decided in the court.
On January 4, 2011 Taseer was shot dead by one of his own guards for demanding changes in the blasphemy law.