Date: January 3, 2017
Shaan Taseer says he has received “very credible death threats” from supporters of his father’s killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – January 3, 2017) -- A Christmas Day message calling for prayers for those charged under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws has led to death threats against the son of a provincial governor, killed five years ago for criticizing the same laws.
In a video message posted on his Facebook page, Shaan Taseer, himself a Muslim, wished a happy holiday to Christians, and also asked for prayers for Asia Bibi, the 50-year-old Christian mother-of-five who is on death row, and others victimized by what he called the “inhumane” blasphemy laws.
Asia Bibi has been in prison since June 2009 after being convicted of blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water.
Taseer’s father, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a moderate Muslim, was gunned down by Mumtaz Qadri, his bodyguard for championing the case of Ms. Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, which he said needed to be “reformed.”
Shaan Taseer said late on Monday that he had received “very credible death threats” from supporters of his father’s killer.
“They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri's photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadri’s waiting for me,” he told the Reuters news agency.
Tens of thousands of Muslims attended Qadri’s funeral last March after he was put to death by hanging for killing the governor because they considered him a hero -- showing the potential for this case to become another flashpoint in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In a shocking turn of events, even by Pakistan standards, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered on Saturday (December 31, 2016) at Islampura police station in Lahore after Shaan Taseer sent his greeting on the occasion of Christmas.
According to Pakistani media reports, the police station received an application from Nasir Hameed, its Station House Officer (SHO), and they subsequently booked Shaan Taseer under Section 295-A of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) “without naming him in the report.” So, because he was not named, trouble immediately began to erupt in the Islamic community.
Now, the fundamentalist Islamic organization Sunni Tehreek is pressing the police to register a case against Shaan Taseer by name under Section 295-C of the Penal Code, which if he was found guilty, carries the death sentence.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that a Muslim group called Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah has issued a fatwa [an Islamic legal pronouncement, issued by an expert in religious law (mufti), pertaining to a specific issue] against Taseer, saying that he is now “condemnable to death” because his message “crossed all limits of insulting God and the [Islamic] prophet.”
The WSJ is stating that the group is of the Barelvi sect, which is normally considered a moderate group, but takes a hardline stance when it comes to the issue of blasphemy laws.
“They have called for my assassination,” Taseer told WSJ. “In no unclear terms, they’ve told their supporters to prepare another Mumtaz Qadri,” Taseer said, referring to the security guard who assassinated his father in 2011.
Taseer explained that he has received hundreds of hate-filled messages and death threats since posting his Christmas message and is now seeking safety outside of Pakistan.
More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 -- many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up 1 percent of the population.
Islamic hardliners have called for mass protests if police do not charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam - a crime punishable by death.
Christians in Pakistan claim that the laws are often used to settle personal scores (as was the case of Asia Bibi), and pressure for convictions is often applied on police and courts from religious groups and lawyers dedicated to pushing the harshest blasphemy punishments.
At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.
“Shaan Taseer in his comments has not blasphemed in any sense of the word or contravened any law,” Wilson Chowdhry, President of the London-based charity British Pakistani Christian Association, told The Christian Post on Monday.
“Yet, he finds himself in a potentially life-threatening position where he could be killed by extremists incensed by the fatwa against him or arrest and detainment leading to a death sentence by statutory authorities who should be protecting him.”
Pakistan-born Chowdhry went on to say, “Britain and the United States have a serious decision to make whether will they continue to sponsor a country to fight terrorism whilst it exhibits more extreme ideology than the terrorists that they purport to be protecting the world from.”
Chowdhry added that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are nothing more than a “tool for discrimination and persecution.”
“Asia Bibi's incarceration on trumped-up charges are a clear example of their misuse,” Chowdhry said. “Sadly, most politicians are too fearful of an Islamic backlash and despite many assurances have failed to amend or abrogate these detestable laws.”
I’ll leave the final comment in this sad case to Shaan Taseer who said, “My father died for a great cause and we do not want this cause to end here. We will take it forward to try and save the lives of many innocent who are being killed in the name of religion.”
Now, he too is facing a dangerous situation in a country where the rule of law seems to be almost non-existent.
Photo captions: 1) Shaan Taseer on a BBC Urdu program. 2) Salman Taseer with his grinning killer. (https://www.samaa.tv/) 3) Asia Bibi. 4) The hardliners have called for mass protests if police do not charge activist Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam – a crime punishable by death. (Reuters). 5) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show, Front Page Radio, on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com), and two TV shows, Windows on the World (with Dr. Garry Ansdell), and Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding, which are both carried on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv). Dan has received an award from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for his reporting on Pakistani affairs.