LAHORE: When Punjab Governor Salman Taseer stepped out of the Table Talk restaurant in Islamabad, after having lunch with his hotelier friend Sheikh Waqas on January 4, he was most likely aware of the possibility of religious extremists lurking around the corner. But what Taseer could not have imagined is that a religious extremist dressed in uniform of the Elite Force of the Punjab Police, brandishing an AK-47, one of those very men who had been assigned to protect him from the rage of Islamists, could get him.
As Taseer approached his car, a cry of ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ echoed in the air. It was in fact Malik Mumtaz Qadri, his bodyguard, who fearlessly proceeded to empty the magazine of his AK-47. As Taseer stumbled and collapsed, Qadri reloaded the rifle and sprayed another round of 30 bullets. He then placed the rifle on the ground and surrendered to the other 11 bodyguards. The remorseless mowing down of an already dead Taseer reflects the depth of Qadri’s hatred. The inaction of other bodyguards, even in the gap between two rounds of firing, speaks of the silent support for Qadri among the posse of bodyguards.
For the dead Taseer, it could hardly be a recompense to recall what he told the Herald magazine two years ago: “I remember the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, saying history is written in the blood of martyrs”. Martyr Taseer now is to the cause of liberal values, to the secularism of the Jinnah brand, to the effort of recovering and restoring to Pakistan its moderate, modern Islamic soul. Taseer was killed, as Mumtaz Qadri was to later tell his interrogators, because of his criticism of blasphemy law and his efforts to secure a presidential pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for having allegedly committed blasphemy.
But martyr Taseer wasn’t in the eyes of Qadri, who believes the assassination now guarantees him a place in Paradise in afterlife. He isn’t a lonely wolf, a solitary misguided bodyguard, for he confessed to his interrogators that he had informed other bodyguards about his intention to slay Taseer and requested them to desist from shooting him as he would surrender after the murder. “I have been looking for an opportunity to shoot Taseer because I did not want to allow him to live anymore,” one of the investigators quoted Qadri as having told him.
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