SalmaanTaseer Salmaan Taseer I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy.Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing

SalmanTaseer220That line was tweeted by @SalmaanTaseer, the Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, on December 31. Salmaan Taseer is no longer standing. He was gunned down by one of his bodyguards yesterday. His killer reportedly said that he was motivated by Taseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Taseer had come to the defence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in a case that seems to have been triggered by a neighbourhood dispute. The blasphemy legislation has been a useful weapon in many such feuds. The death sentence has never been carried out, but those charged with blasphemy are all too often killed in vigilante attacks. Taseer had described these laws as “man-made”, not “God-given”.

“Murder most foul!” the Pakistani newspaper Dawn proclaimed, as protestors took to the streets and the social networking sites at the news of Taseer’s assasination. (Those who regarded the killer as a hero were marking the occasion on Facebook and Twitter as well.)

Salmaan Taseer was a member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, which had declared two weeks of mourning. However, the government is unlikely to follow Taseer’s lead on the blasphemy issue (although Aasia Bibi stands a very strong chance of eventual release). With the recent withdrawal of two minor parties having cost the ruling coalition its parliamentary majority, and the religious parties taking to the streets at any suggestion of reforming or repealing the blasphemy laws – well, Salmaan Taseer is not the last man standing. The campaign against the legislation continues. But despite Zardari’s proclamations of grief at the death of a political friend and ally, no-one is holding their breath waiting for substantial change on the issue that cost him his life.

I had logged onto Twitter in order to test out @StoningBot – a twitterbot that automatically generates a Monty-Python inspired tweet every time anyone tweets the word “Jehovah”. I had I re-tweeted a line from John Safran about Jehovah’s witnesses the other day, triggering StoningBot to proclaim: @shakirahussein has been found guilty of uttering the name of our Lord, and so, as a blasphemer, is to be stoned to death. *throws a stone*

It took me a little while to dredge up memories of Life of Brian and work out what that was about. I wonder if it happens every single time I tweet “Jehovah”. Oh, yes it does! Hold on – what are all these tweets about Salmaan Taseer?

Suddenly, death sentences for alleged blasphemy seemed a lot more immediate.

@SalmaanTaseer’s twitterfeed remains online, with all his uncompromising tweets about the blasphemy legislation and his entertaining digs at his political rivals. And one final tweet:

R.I.P. Lion of the Punjab Salmaan Taseer (31 May 1944-04 Jan 2011)… Innalillahe wa inna ilaihi rajiun. (From the Quran 2:156 – Yusuf Ali translation: To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.)