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Hundreds gather for first anniversary of assassination of Punjab governor

Lahore (UCAN/Agencies): Hundreds of people gathered on January 4 to remember the late governor of Punjab province, Pakistan, Salman Taseer, on the first anniversary of his assassination by his bodyguard for speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Around 300 students, lawyers and human rights activists joined the slain governor’s family in a candlelight vigil, organized by the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS), at Liberty Market Roundabout, a well-known gathering point in the city.

Speaking to The Express Tribune newspaper, one of Taseer’s sons, Shehryar, who was accompanied by Shehrbano, his sister, said that 2011 was one of the darkest years in the history of Pakistan. “Where is that judiciary and democracy we fought for?” he asked. His brother, Shahbaz, was abducted last month.

Workers from the Catholic Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance and the Centre for Human Rights Education also spoke out against the blasphemy laws and demanded the safe return of Shahbaz Taseer. 

Faiza Ahmed Malik, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party provincial assembly, demanded that the death sentence handed to assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, be carried out swiftly. “The delay will encourage similar murderers,” she said.

In a January 5 report, the Daily Times, reported on its website that IPSS director, Syeda Deep, demanded the government to take a firm stand on defending human rights and uphold the rule of law by dealing strictly with people who take law in their own hands. 

It also quoted Human Rights Network Pakistan president, Abdullah Malik, as saying that Taseer was still alive in their hearts and they would continue to strengthen the cause for which he sacrificed his life.

Meanwhile, across town, about 1,000 people gathered at a shrine in support of Qadri. They demanded swift punishment for Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, whom Taseer had tried to support. They also insisted that the governor’s murder was justified because it was carried out according to Islamic dictates and called for the gun that was used to kill him to be put up for auction claiming it was an object with holy significance.

The Express Tribune also reported that, a year on from the assassination, there has been increased polarisation in the name of religion and that minorities continue to feel vulnerable.

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