Despite threats from a section of clerics that anyone who grieved for slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer would meet a similar fate, people crowded his gubernatorial residence in Lahore on Wednesday to pay their last respects before his body was buried with full state honours.
In fact, there were reports from Lahore that the funeral prayers were delayed because several clerics refused to lead the ‘namaaz-e-janaaza' (funeral prayer). This reluctance on the part of clerics to lead the funeral prayers was attributed to a diktat issued to this effect by Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan. The body was then flown to a nearby graveyard for burial in the presence of his three sons and a close circle of friends and relatives.
While President Asif Ali Zardari did not attend the funeral for security reasons, the entire leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) — which rules Punjab province at the head of a coalition government — was apparently asked by the Pakistan People's Party to stay away for fear that it could lead to clashes between workers of the two parties.
Taseer's body was flown from Islamabad — where he was gunned down by his own security guard on Tuesday afternoon — to Lahore late Tuesday night. The body was kept at the Governor's House where Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani led the nation in mourning the death of a man who was also renowned Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz's nephew.
Though there were apprehensions of violence, the day passed off incident-free. Lionised by a section of Pakistan for silencing a voice that had supported an alleged blasphemer and called the blasphemy laws “`black laws'', the assailant Malik Mumtaz Qadri (26) — according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik had requested to be put on Taseer's security detail on Tuesday.
Questions are being asked why none of the other security personnel around Taseer had opened fire at Qadri and some of them have also been detained by the police for interrogation. Qadri was presented before a magistrate in the district court in Islamabad on Wednesday and the case has been transferred to an anti-terrorism court.
Meanwhile, civil society sought to come to terms with Taseer's assassination and its ramifications for Pakistan. For most, it represented not just growing intolerance but shrinking of space for any kind of discourse. Candle-light meetings were organised in Islamabad and Karachi. In Islamabad, the parking spot in Kohsar Market — where he was gunned down — was christened “Salman Taseer Square” by activists as they remembered him and lamented for the Pakistan envisaged by founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Keywords: Salman Taseer burial