His father was shot dead by his Islamist bodyguard because he asked for amendments to draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan. Now Shaan Taseer is facing blasphemy charges. His “crime” was he asked for prayers for victims of the law.
To honour his father on his sixth death anniversary, the slain governor’s son, Shaan Taseer, posted a video on Facebook wherein he spoke about what his father taught him and called for equal rights for all Pakistanis, regardless of their faith.
“We live in a society which oppresses its weakest section and where no Ahmadi, Shia and Christian can live their lives according to their wishes,” he said.
He continued, “This year Pakistan will become 70 years old and this is the country which was constituted to safeguard the lives and interests of the Muslim minority of the South Asia.”
“Today, being a nation, let’s commit ourselves to treat every Pakistani equally whether they are Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi or Christian… One nation, one blood, one Pakistan… Pakistan for all… Long live Pakistan!” he concluded.
“In my Christmas message, I asked all my countryman to make a special prayer for everyone who has suffered religious persecution in Pakistan,” Shaan Taseer told the BBC.
He said it was time to raise the “very basic question” of whether Pakistani citizens should be able to talk about the country’s “unjust” laws on blasphemy.
“This issue has been shut down at the barrel of a gun after my father’s death,” he said, adding: “The law of the land states very clearly that every citizen has the right to talk about not just the blasphemy law but every law.”
One of those charged under the law and mentioned in Shaan Taseer’s message is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman facing the death penalty for on allegations of verbally insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
His appeal for prayers for those accused of blasphemy led to calls by an Islamic group for the state to bring charges against him under the same law. He said that he had also since received death threats.
Police in the city of Lahore said they accept the contents of the message could cause offence and are now investigating whether the video is authentic.
Members of the religious group which raised concerns over Shaan Taseer’s social media post have arranged to meet government officials to discuss the case.
The law enacted by the British made it a crime to disturb a religious assembly, trespass on burial grounds, insult religious beliefs and intentionally destroy or defile a place or an object of worship. The maximum punishment under these laws ranges from one year to 10 years in jail, with or without a fine.
During the 1980s the blasphemy laws were created and expanded in several instalments. In 1980, making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages was made an offence, carrying a maximum punishment of three years in jail.
In 1982, another clause prescribed life imprisonment for “wilful” desecration of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. In 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the penalty recommended was “death, or imprisonment for life”, in that order.
Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy but some of those accused have been murdered or lynched by crowds.
Pakistan is the perfect example illustrating how dangerous religion is when it is used as a tool for political mobilisation.