Salmaan Taseer

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Salman Taseer
سلمان تاثیر
Salmaan Taseer.jpg
26th Governor of Punjab (Pakistan)
In office
15 May 2008 – 4 January 2011
Preceded by Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool
Succeeded by Sardar Latif Khosa
Personal details
Born (1944-05-31)31 May 1944[1]
Shimla, Punjab, British India
Died 4 January 2011(2011-01-04) (aged 66)
Islamabad, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Political party Pakistan Peoples Party
Spouse(s) Tavleen Singh (1979-1980) Aamna Taseer
Children Shaan Taseer
Aatish Taseer
Father M. D. Taseer
Residence Governor's House (Lahore) (official)
Alma mater Chartered Accountant, from London[3]

Salmaan Taseer (Urdu: سلمان تاثیر‎; (1944-05-31)31 May 1944[1][4] – 4 January 2011) was a Pakistani businessman and a liberal politician, who served as the 26th Governor of Punjab from 2008 until his assassination in 2011.[5]

Born in Shimla in British India, Taseer studied at the St. Anthony's School and the Government College in Lahore before moving to London where studied accountancy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. In 1994, Taseer established a brokerage house backed by the Smith Barney and in 1996 he founded the Worldcall Group. He later in 2000s ventured into media, launching Business Plus and Daily Times.[6]

A member of the Pakistan Peoples Party since the 1980s, he was elected to the Punjab Assembly from Lahore in the 1988 election, however lost in 1990, 1993 and then in 1997. Taseer served as a minister in the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Mian Soomro under Pervez Musharraf during the 2008 elections.[7] He was appointed as the governor of Punjab on 15 May 2008, by then-President Musharraf at the request of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.[8][9] During his governorship, he emerged as an outspoken critic of the Pakistan's blasphemy laws and consequently called for the pardon for Asia Bibi.[10][11]

On 4 January 2011, he was assassinated at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who disagreed with Taseer's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law.[12] The Guardian described Taseer's murder as "one of the most traumatic events in recent Pakistani history."[13][14] A nationwide three-day state of mourning was held in Pakistan, Taseer's funeral prayers where held as the Governors House in Lahore.[15] Taseer's son, Shahbaz, was kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban in 2011, before being released in 2016, a few months after Taseer's murderer was hanged.[16][17] Taseer's other son, Shaan, is a leading critic of the country's blasphemy law.[18]

Early and personal life[edit]

Birth and education[edit]

He was born on 31 May 1944, in Shimla, British India, to a mixed race family.[19] being of Kashmiri descent on his father's side[20] and of English descent on his mother's side.[21] His father was Muhammad Din Taseer (M. D. Taseer), who hailed from Ajnala near Amritsar,[22] and was a professor at Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, Amritsar, having obtained his PhD in the United Kingdom. Taseer's mother was Christobel George, a British woman who, upon her wedding, converted to Islam and took the name Bilqis.[21]

Taseer's father died in 1950 at the age of 47, when Taseer was only six years old.[23] Taseer and his two sisters were brought up by their mother in relative poverty, in an environment with very strong Christian and influences, and a general absence of immersion in local Pakistani culture, because his mother kept no contact with the relatives of her late husband.[24]

Taseer attended St. Anthony's School, a school run by Christian missionaries in Lahore, where he was a classmate of Nawaz Sharif.[3] He then obtained a degree in Chartered Accountancy from London.[3]

Marital and extramarital relationships[edit]

Taseer was married twice, and he also had two confirmed extra-marital relationships. With his first wife Yasmeen Sehgal, he had one son, Shaan, and two daughters, Sara and Sanam. His second wife, Aamna Taseer, is chairperson of an investment management company. They have two sons, Shahbaz and Shehryar and a daughter, Shehrbano.

Taseer had a brief extramarital relationship with the Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, a Sikh. Taseer met Singh during a book promotion trip to India in March 1980. Their son, Aatish (born 1980), is a writer and journalist. According to Aatish, the relationship between his parents was an "affair (which) lasted little more than a week."[25] Aatish is a freelance journalist in the UK and has written a book – Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands – about his estranged relationship with his biological father.[26][27] Aatish had no contact with his father until well into adulthood.

In the early 1980s, Taseer had a year-long affair with the Bollywood actress Simi Garewal.[28]

Political career[edit]

Taseer started his political career in his student era as a member of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the late 1960s.[29] He was a part of the movement for Bhutto's freedom and opposed his arrest and death sentence.[29] He also wrote a political biography on Bhutto titled Bhutto: A political biography (1980).[29] Taseer was also known to be one of the trusted aides of Bhutto's daughter and political heir, Benazir Bhutto.[3]

In the 1988 general elections, Taseer became a member of the Punjab Assembly from Lahore.[29] In the 1990, 1993 and 1997 general elections, he stood for election to be an MNA but lost.[29] In 2007, he was appointed the interim Federal Minister for Industries, Production and Special Initiatives.[29] On 15 May 2008, Taseer was designated for the office of Governor of Punjab by the PPP-led coalition government.

In December 2010, Taseer was alleged to have left the country for several days without handing over charge to the Punjab Assembly Speaker. This meant that the province was without a constitutional head, and it also rendered the assembly speaker ineligible to preside over sessions. Leaving the province without informing his successor was in violation of the constitution and this led to Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal sending a letter to Prime Minister Gilani calling for the removal of Salmaan Taseer by the President.[30] Evidence provided by ICAO on the governor's travel abroad led to a case being filed in court for breach of the constitution.[31]

Business career[edit]

Taseer set up several chartered accountancy and management consultancy firms early in his career.[32] In 1995 he established the First Capital Securities Corporation (FCSC), a full-service brokerage house with equity participation by Smith Barney, Inc., USA, and HG Asia Hong Kong.[32]

Taseer founded the Worldcall group with a payphone network in 1996. The group has grown over the years to become a major private-sector telecom operator with a national and regional footprint.[32] A majority stake in Worldcall was acquired in 2008 by Omantel, the Sultanate of Oman's incumbent operator.[33] Taseer also owned an English news channel in Pakistan, Business Plus; and the first children's channel, Wikkid Plus;[32] and was the publisher of the English language Daily Times.[32]


In an interview with Meher Bukhari on Samaa TV, Taseer commented on his view about the country's blasphemy law and on filing a mercy petition for Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death by a court under the law.[34]

On 4 January 2011, one of Taseer's bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, shot him 27 times with an AK-47 assault rifle at Kohsar Market,[35] near his home[36] in Sector F6, Islamabad, as he was returning to his car after meeting a friend for lunch. Kohsar Market is a popular shopping and cafe spot for the city's elite and expatriates.[12][37] Eight hours before his assassination, he tweeted an Urdu couplet by Shakeel Badayuni: "My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear only the radiance of the flowers, that it might burn my garden down."[38][clarification needed]

The next day, hundreds of people turned up for his funeral in Lahore in spite of denunciations by some Sunni clerics and religious scholars against mourning Taseer.[39][40] Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and many supporters of the ruling PPP were seen attending the funeral prayer. The funeral prayers were finally led by Allama Afzal Chisti of the Ulema wing of the PPP after the chief cleric of the Badshahi Mosque, who had initially agreed to offer prayers, backed off at the last moment, saying he was going out of town.[41] Taseer was buried at a military cantonment in Lahore.[42]

The assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri was from Punjab, and was part of the security detail provided to Taseer by the Elite Police. After the shooting, Qadri threw his weapon down and put his hands up when one of his colleagues aimed at him. He reportedly pleaded to be arrested.[43] After the murder, more than 500 clerics voiced support for the crime and urged a general boycott of Taseer's funeral.[44] Supporters of Mumtaz Qadri blocked police attempting to bring him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi, and some supporters showered him with rose petals.[45] On 1 October 2011, Qadri was sentenced to death by a Pakistani Anti Terrorist court at Islamabad for murdering Taseer. Qadri was executed on 29 February 2016.[46][47]


  • Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf expressed grief over the assassination, adding that Taseer was a seasoned politician and his death was a loss for not only the PPP but also the entire country.[48] Many members of the country's business community also conveyed their shock after the killing.[49]
  • The Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif condemned the killing, saying, "This is really a big loss for the PPP and as we believe friendly politics deeply condemn this murder, praying for Mr. Taseer."
  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan condemned Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the man who gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, and his reception as a hero on the premises of the Anti Terrorism Court, "Salmaan Taseer never demanded that the blasphemy laws be repealed; rather he spoke against their misuse. He was gunned down because of the misperception that he is anti-Islamic and anti-blasphemy laws," Imran Khan said.
  • The Punjab Provincial Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the assassination and praising Taseer's political and social services.[50]
  • The Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, an Islamic religious organisation representing the Barelvi movement, issued an advisory against mourning his death.[40][42] They also declared Qadri a "hero of the Muslim world."[51]
  • A Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander in South Waziristan said that Taseer would have been assassinated anyway "very soon" even if he had not been killed by Qadri.[52]
  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former President Zardari, spoke at a memorial service for Taseer in London saying: "To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you...those who wish to harm you need to go through me first. Allah has promised them (perpetrators) hell, and we shall send them there." He also said a jihad is needed to combat extremism in Pakistan, while condemning those who praised the assassination.[53]
  • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination calling it a "loss for Pakistan."[54]
  • Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna condemned the killing in a letter to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The Ministry of External Affairs also said: "On behalf of the people and the Government of India and his own, Mr. Krishna conveyed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and the people of Pakistan."[55]
  • France condemned the assassination and hailed Taseer as a man known for his "courage in defending democratic institutions." Deputy Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages said, "France firmly condemns the assassination on Tuesday of the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer. Governor Taseer was a political personality of the highest order."[56]
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari "[o]ffering his condolences to Zardari and condemning the assassination, the Turkish PM also asked the president to convey his heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family and the people of the country."[57]
  • British Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that he was "shocked to hear of the assassination of Salmaan Taseer" and that "his death will be a loss to the leadership of Pakistan. On behalf of the British government I send my condolences to Mr Taseer’s family, friends and colleagues."[58]
  • United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the assassination of Taseer saying she "admired his work to promote tolerance and the education of Pakistan’s future generations" and that his death "is a great loss."[59] Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry also condemned the assassination: "Governor Taseer was a proud champion of democracy and respect for the rights of women and minorities. He fearlessly stood up to the threats of extremists, and lost his life in defense of moderation and tolerance, values shared by most Pakistani citizens. The best way to honor his legacy is to continue resisting violent extremism and supporting the core principles on which Pakistan was founded."[60]
  • Pope Benedict XVI called for the repeal of the blasphemy law and also called on governments in Muslim-majority countries to protect Christians from violent attacks. He told the Holy See's diplomats that the law was a pretext for violence against minorities. He also added that "The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction." The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam responded in saying: "The pope has given a statement today that has not only offended the 180 million Muslims in Pakistan, it has also hurt the sentiments of the entire Islamic world. This is an interference in Pakistan's internal matters...we respect the pope, being head of Christians and their religion, but he should also refrain from interfering in Muslims' religious affairs."[61]

Possible repercussions[edit]

In the international media his death was seen as destabilising the already tenuous situation in the country, particularly in the light of resignation of members of the ruling coalition. One local analyst said the death was a "major setback for Pakistan, which is trying to get out of this vicious cycle of violence and worsening economy. [The killing] will certainly weaken the party position in Punjab."[62] It was suggested that the killing was indicative of a "deeper trend" of "religious intolerance" afflicting Pakistan. [63] The son of the late governor, Shahbaz Taseer, who was a witness in Mumtaz Qadri's trial, was kidnapped on 26 August 2011 while he was on his way to work in Lahore, Pakistan.[64] After twelve days of unsuccessful attempts by the Pakistani police to recover him, some news sources reported that Shahbaaz, along with an American aid worker, Dr Warren Weinstein, was held captive by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.[65][66] Shahbaz was recovered by security and intelligence forces from Balochistan’s Kuchlak area on 8 March 2016.[67]

Taseer's assassination may dissuade other Pakistani politicians from speaking out against the blasphemy law, according to a former U.S. State Department intelligence analyst with the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.[68]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jehangir Khan Tareen
Federal Minister for Industries, Production and Special Initiatives[69]
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Khalid Maqbool
Governor of Punjab
Succeeded by
Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan(Acting)


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool
Governor of Punjab
2008 - 2011
Succeeded by
Latif Khosa