Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of murdered Pakistan’s Punjab governor Salman Taseer, says she is determined to continue his campaign against the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. I recently spoke to her for RFE/RL. Here is the full interview.
Is your family satisfied with judiciary/court procedures that are taking place in the case of your father’s killing?
We are confident that Qadri [Mumtaz Qadri, who is accused of killing Salman Taseer] will be punished for what he did. The state has intentionally kept the case out of the media, and we would respect everyone’s compliance with this.
How do you cope with the loss of your father? Especially you live in the same country and to be more specific in the same province where the killer and his supporters celebrated the murder?
We try to take it one day at a time. For everyone else it was the Governor of Punjab and their leader and hero, but for me it was my father. It has been very difficult. It was sickening to watch the lawyers garland Qadri because these men are supposed to be the vanguards of justice in Pakistan and it makes one wonder just how independent our judiciary really is.
Did your father ever talk about the religious minorities and the problems they face?
All the time. He was the only politician who visited the Ahmedis when they were attacked in May 2010, and the Christians in the Gojra attacks as well.
Don’t you think he should have taken more precautions by taking security measures or choosing his words carefully while talking about such issues?
I think that’s a very apologist route. We live in a democracy and there is free speech. My father had a lot of security. He had 17 guards on him the day this happened — how much more can he tighten his security? It was his own guard who killed him, not some random assailant on a motorbike. He was very careful with his words. He repeatedly said that his standing up for Aasia Bibi was about humanity not religion. He spoke about the misuse of blasphemy law.
Just like your father, you have also been talking against the blasphemy laws openly. Does thinking about your father’s killing scare you?
Never. My father did not die so that I could live my life with my head down and thoughts chained up. I will continue to speak up and write and carry his work forward.
Has government given your family any protection?
Yes. (For security reasons she will not give any details.)
Looking at Pakistan, it seems to be getting more and more extreme with each day passes. Do you think any change is possible to blasphemy law?
It’s true. There is an increase in radicalization in Pakistan. It’s dangerous because we do not know the enemy anymore — he could be anywhere. It’s a mindset we are dealing with and that is very tough. The mindset is a direct result of the Madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan that spew venom and hatred left right and center. We can thank the Saudis for that.
I hope that one day this law is not misused anymore. Many countries all over the world have these laws in tact; the difference is the conviction rates. That must change immediately.