Pak plumbs news depths; Taseer killer ‘soldier of Islam’
But it was not his lifestyle, but his opposition to the notorious blasphemy law in Pakistan that got him in the end. Not only had he vociferously voiced his opinion on the issue but had publicly called for pardon for Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of five, who was sentenced to death under the law. He even met her at a prison in Sheikhupura along with his family.
From that moment, Taseer's death was an event foretold.
It brought threats on his life from the hardliners in Pakistan, including most prominently from Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. But he was unrepentant and event defiant. "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing," Taseer wrote on Twitter on the eve of this New Year.
Tragically, it seems that Taseer was prescient. Indeed, he was the last man standing. For, the aftermath has shown a shocking blowback by the Islamists. The hardliners not only justified the killing but eulogized and praised the killer, 26-year-old Elite Force police commando Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, as a hero - a 'soldier of Islam'.
Pak plumbs news depths; Taseer killer ‘soldier of Islam’
Regrettably, it was not just the Mullahs and the extremists but the literate sections of the Pakistani society who have exhibited a dangerously fanatical bend of mind. Believe it or not, Taseer's killer turned hero on Facebook.
Nearly 2,000 Facebook users welcomed the killing of Salman Taseer as a strike against reformers of the country's tight blasphemy laws. Nearly 2,000 Facebook users joined one group on the social networking site praising Qadri, and dozens of "fans" joined other pages set up in Qadri's honour in the hours after the shooting, reported a leading agency.
All the pages had been removed by Wednesday. Other private account holders used their Facebook status updates to make comments such as: "We salute you Mumtaz Qadri," "thank God he (Taseer) is not alive (any) more" and praise for the attacker as "a soldier of Islam".
This show of fanatical support for cold blooded killing of a public figure, who had the courage of conviction to stand and be counted was not restricted to the lunatic fringe in Pakistan. Even the mainstream media was not immune to echo the clarion call of the extremists.
Pakistan's leading Urdu daily, Jang, proclaimed on its front page: "There should be no funeral for Salman Taseer and no condemnation for his death...a supporter of a blasphemer is also a blasphemer." In a related story it noted that more than "500 religious scholars and clerics had paid tribute to Qadri".
Pak plumbs news depths; Taseer killer ‘soldier of Islam’
The story does not end there. The scheduled court appearance of killer Qadri before the Anti-Terrorist Court in Rawalpindi had to be shelved as a crowd of extremist lawyers and madrassa students descended on the building in support of Qadri, and prevented the judge from leaving for court.
Faced with the ire of the Islamists and the reality of Taseer's murder, the only other person in Pakistan's troubled cauldron who has been fighting a losing battle against obscurantism, as represented by the blasphemy law, parliamentarian Sherry Rahman has gone underground.

What compounds the issues is the near silence of the other political parties and civil society, which is deafening. With the extremists on the rampage and utter lack of spine exhibited by others, the liberal space in the country, which has be fast shrinking, is now almost completely eroded.

Declan Walsh, writing in The Guardian, put it best on the dilemmas facing Pakistan, "The ordinary, moderate people who do not favour extremism or violence, and only want their society to thrive -- were saying nothing. But in Pakistan, that is no longer good enough. Silence kills".
Problem is, so does speaking!
Source: India Syndicate