Pakistan: murder of the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer
Delivered in Plenary - 20th January 2011
When Governor Salmaan Taseer was buried, it seemed to me as though any hope for a moderate, stable Pakistan was buried with him. This disgusting murder of a dedicated and enlightened public servant was sparked by his advocacy of reforming Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. In particular, he championed the case of a Christian woman who is currently awaiting execution – would you believe it – having been convicted of defaming Islam.
We in this Parliament have long called for the reform or scrapping of these wretched blasphemy laws, which are invoked frequently against Pakistan’s religious minorities. This assassination underlines the growing radicalisation of Pakistani society. Jinnah, were he alive today, would be shocked.
Few mainstream politicians dared to follow Salmaan Taseer’s lead and suggest a reform of the blasphemy laws and even fewer will be able to do so now. They will be afraid. Instead, the violent radicals and fanatics – including, I am afraid, leading jurists – praised the assassin and called for his release. They seem to be winning the battle of ideas in Pakistan. As a result, domestic terrorism is flourishing, and we saw this phenomenon again last week.
Can the EU now sustain a strategic relationship with a country so unstable and particularly given our generous concessions over trade and aid?