On June 27, 2011, Shehrbano Taseer, a journalist for Newsweek Pakistan and daughter of Salmaan Taseer, the late Governor of Punjab Province, spoke at the Middle East Institute about her father’s assassination and the blasphemy laws that she says have led extremism to take greater hold in Pakistan. Taseer indicated that minorities in particular are being targeted through manipulation of the “draconian” blasphemy laws that have been in place since 1986. She said that these laws are deserving of criticism, as they “promote an atmosphere of intolerance and fear” and “allow the power-hungry to capitalize on the language of the laws.”
In regard to her father’s death, Taseer said that extremists were able to make “something about humanity into something about religion,” twisting her father’s words and message in order to further their own agenda. Taseer poignantly noted that, “if you believe in something in Pakistan, you have to be willing to die for it.” She added that she had been threatened after her father’s death and warned to remain silent about her beliefs on the misuse of blasphemy laws, which reflect those of her father. She said she has not paid heed to this warning, however, and stressed that speaking out has indeed made a difference. As an example of her outreach activities in the wake of her father’s assassination, Taseer spoke about her presentation at the UN on the “ground realities” of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, in which she asked the UN to prohibit hate speech rather than supporting laws that protect religion. She explained that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used not to protect people or religion, but rather are used as “instruments of repression and terror,” and that “you can’t protect a religion, but you can protect its followers.”
This event summary was written by Belle Cheves, an intern in MEI's Programs and Communications Department.
Assertions and opinions in this Summary are solely those of the above-mentioned author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Middle East Institute, which expressly does not take positions on Middle East policy.