Salman Taseer's Assassination

Image from:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Salman Taseer meets with Asia Bibi
I've heard as much about Salman Taseer's Twitter account as I have about the political motivations of his recent assassination.  Taseer was the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan.  Shot by his police guard, Mumtaz Qadri, he was apparently killed because of his position on Pakistani anti-blasphemy law.  Anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan states that it is illegal to speak, write, or visually represent Islam and/or the Prophet Muhammad in a derogatory manner and that such actions can be punished, from fines and imprisonment to the death penalty.  Salman Taseer was known publicly for supporting a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.

More details will emerge as the investigation continues, but my initial response is two-fold.  On the one hand I respect a Pakistiani politician who publicly (and therefore dangerously) espoused tolerance.  On the other hand, I cringe in anticipation of the typical American response to this sort of headline:  "Oh yes, more Muslim extremists in Pakistan killing people and blowing things up.  This is particularly bad because he was a liberal politician (read: more palatably western).  What can you do?  Must be why we have drones there."  

This response glosses over an incredibly important point:  why is there a climate of extremism in Pakistan?  Decades of political instability, military rule, poverty, US meddling in internal affairs, not to mention the crisis precipitated by the inundation of a good portion of the country this summer under flood waters (news of which has largely faded from the international press), has left the country unable to provide basic security, education, and a profitable livelihood to the majority of its citizenry.  Any country facing these same array of factors will breed extremism.

I am no supporter of violence, intolerance, or extremism in any form.  And the Pakistani government, mired in corruption and often showing general disregard for its population, holds a large degree of responsibility for this problem.  500 Muslim clerics may have praised Mumtaz Qadri and warned Pakistanis against mourning Taseer.  But this is not a simple story of "extremist kills politician with tolerant views who tweets."  The real story is why and how such extremism came to be.  Only then can alternatives be found.

Article in Washington Post