Activists, both Muslim and Christian, in Pakistan held a candlelight vigil yesterday remembering the assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer. Taseer was killed in 2011 after criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and standing up for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman currently on death row after being convicted of committing blasphemy. According to Taseer, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were “black laws” in need of reform or repeal. This statement, and his support for Bibi, led to his assassination. Many activists still fighting to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws continue to remember Taseer’s example and bravery.
1/5/2016 Pakistan (UCA News) – Amid tight security, Christian and Muslim activists attended a candlelight vigil in Lahore Jan. 4 to remember former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer who was assassinated in 2011 for criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
“Taseer was a different person [and] we have gathered for his cause and ideas,” said Father Abid Habib, of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors.
“The extremist mindset still prevails in a society which it has fatally infected,” Father Habib said at the vigil.
Taseer was shot dead by his police bodyguard because he criticized the country’s blasphemy laws and defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Last year, Pope Francis met Bibi’s family and assured them that he prays for her and for all Christians who are suffering.
Father Habib praised Taseer’s children who attended the vigil despite threats from two religious groups including the hardline Pakistan Sunni Tehreek. One of the former governor’s sons, Shahbaz Taseer, remains missing after being kidnapped by Islamic militants in 2011.
From 1987 to 2014, nearly 1,500 people were charged under the controversial blasphemy law said the Catholic bishop’s National Commission for Justice and Peace.
Father Habib said that Taseer had rightly described the law as a black law.
“This evil law portrays Islam in a negative way and must be completely finished,” said Father Habib. “It interprets the constitution in a way that makes religious minorities in this country appear as if they do not exist,” he said.
“Taseer showed sympathy for such people and considered humanity first.”