Revisiting history: Salman Taseer is a story that shook the world and is embedded in Pakistan’s gray past. The story is a byproduct of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Appointment: Taseer had long been associated with the Pakistan People’s Party and was a well-recognized businessman. In 2008, Taseer served as a minister in the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Mian Soomro under President Pervez Musharraf. In the next elections, the Pakistan People’s Party stood victorious. PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gillani had assumed the Office of the Prime Minister and advised President General Musharraf to appoint Salman Taseer as the Governor of Punjab. On May 15, 2008, Taseer was sworn in as the Governor of Punjab.

Late Governor Salman Taseer

Reason: Taseer, as the governor of Punjab, emerged as a strong critic of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and as an advocate of human rights. On November 20, 2010, Asiya Bibi, who was sentenced to death under blasphemy laws, appealed for a presidential pardon. Taseer, who was the governor, got involved and said in a press conference that the punishment Asiya Bibi was sentenced to, was against humanity and that he would take her appeal for mercy to the President.

Governor Salman Taseer meeting Asiya Bibi

The assassination: After around 2 months of contending, on the 4th of January, 2011, when Taseer was leaving for his home in the F6 sector in Islamabad after meeting a friend at the Kohsar Market, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, a commando of the Elite Force deputed as a security guard to the governor, shot him 28 times with his government-issued assault rifle. The shooting resulted in his death. The next day, a state funeral was organised, which was attended by hundreds of people along with the senior leadership of the PPP, including the then Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani. The entire nation went into a 3-day mourning period.

Scene of crime

More: According to Wikipedia, after the assassination, more than 500 clerics voiced their support for the murder and were urged to boycott Taseer’s funeral as he supported a “blasphemer.” As Qadri was arrested on the spot, whenever he was moved to a court of law for proceedings, his supporters blocked the roads and showered rose petals on the prisoner transport. After all-out attempts to save Qadri, an anti-terrorism court sentenced Qadri to death on October 1, 2011, for murdering Governor Salman Taseer. On February 29, 2016, after five years of detention, Qadri was executed at the Adiala Jail.

Mumtaz Qadri at the courthouse