A Case Study of the Assassination of Salman Taseer
Number of words: 1732
People have committed murders since time immemorial. Most are intentional, but others are accidental, such as in the case of man-slaughter. Incidental deaths may happen too, for example, when a bulldozer is demolishing a house, and an uninformed person happens to be walking nearby, and a part of the wall falls on them. Various communities in the world abhor the killing of innocent persons, but then there are assassinations, whose news is always received with mixed reactions depending on who the benefactor is. Assassinations are not a contemporary issue. They have happened right from the beginning of life in the bible when Cain jealously killed Abel, and another instance when King Saul wanted David assassinated so he could not become the successor to the throne. Thus, people can be assassinated for various reasons. This case study will review the incident of the killing of Governor Taseer in the presence of his bodyguards, as well as determine what went wrong while providing recommendations for improvements that should be considered.
Events Leading to the Incident
Hanif (2011) puts it that Salman Taseer was an entrepreneur and a politician allied to the Pakistan People’s Party. His first political stint occurred in 1988 when he was elected to the assembly of Punjab from Lahore. Since then, he served the Pakistani people in various capacities, including as a minister and then as a governor of Punjab’s province from 2008 to January fourth, 2011, when he was assassinated. At the time, Pakistan was under the presidency of Asif Ali Zardari, who was a close friend of Taseer. His job was a ceremonial one where he represented the president. The government of Punjab was headed by Nawaz Sharif, the administration’s official opposition leader.
The events leading to his assassination are as astonishing as the event itself. Taseer was a liberal-minded person in a largely intolerant nation. There was a law that came into force in the 1980s that he was most vocal against. As it was generally referred to, the blasphemy law stated that if an individual was found guilty of defaming Prophet Muhammad and Islam in a court of law, they should be sentenced to execution (Akhter, 2012). Salman was always against this law and its severe sentence, although no one had been sentenced to death ever since it was enacted. At the time, it had become a contention between the conservatively religious and the secular politicians. The governor, noting that the religiously mobilized masses’ hate against him was getting out-of-hand, tried to play down his stance on the law by communicating that he had only wanted it changed, not abolished (Thenews.com.pk, 2011).
Things turned for the worse for him when he publicly declared to support Asia Bibi, a Christian, get out of jail when a court of law sentenced her to death on the eleventh of November 2010. He visited Aasian in jail on November twentieth and promised to forward her pardon application to the president. While there, he referred to the 1980s law as a black law. He defended his statement by saying that the law only promoted hatred and extremism between Islam and other religions. According to him, the law was only enforced during the tyrant’s Zia Haq reign, and that the current Pakistani constitution was for the protection of minorities’ rights. He also argued that the whole of Pakistan had become an international joke because Asian was innocent (Akhter, 2012). He was consequently excommunicated from Islam by Almi Tanzeem Ali Sunnat, an organization that calls for the application of Islam in all spheres of the Muslim community, which also urged the president to sack him from the governorship of Punjab because he was no longer a Muslim. The Governor House’s security was then heightened after it received bomb threats. The International Muslim Organization announced later that whoever would pardon a person guilty of blasphemy would no longer remain a Muslim (TheNews.co.pk, 2011).
Amid the storm, the administrative, religious and social caucus on December seventh, 2010, declared Taseer as contempt-of-court blasphemous Muslim and pleaded with the president to avoid pardoning Aasia Bibi and allow the court process to take its course. Salman was shot at close range by one of his Elite Force Guards on 4th January 2011 when he was boarding his vehicle at Khosar, an Islamabad suburb. He was sixty-six years old at the time (Khan, 2012).
What Went Wrong?
The death shocked the world. Over 500 religious leaders from across the globe regretted that the act would potentially create unprecedented rifts among religions. Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadr, the guard who shot him, said that he did so because Salman called the blasphemous law a black law. This shows the lengths that people are willing to go over religion because Taseer was not a criminal and had broken no law but was gunned down for questioning the law (Khan, 2012).
The incident calls for questioning the role of bodyguards around high profile persons. If a big profile person like Taseer could be killed so easily with security detail around him, what about the common citizen with no private security guards? Obviously, some blunders made his death so easily possible.
Firstly, reports show that Constable Qadri, the assassin, was a well known radical in the security service and had been declared unfit for VIP protection (Hanif, 2011).
So many things went wrong in Salman’s assassination. For instance, although Minister for Interior, Rehman Malik agreed that it was the responsibility of the government of Punjab to provide security to people of great standing such as Taseer, there had been intelligent reports that warned that protection officers with a divergent religious background and from radical locale must not be providing security to vital people. Minister Malik promised to find if Punjab’s government had acted on the report (Hanif, 2011).
Another blunder that led to the governor’s death stems from the date a bomb threat was received at his office. If security was beefed up at Governor’s House, the rational thing to do was heighten his security and change the security squad altogether. Again, Governor Taseer’s political allies had warned him not to continue with Bibi’s case. They should have warned him to watch every step he made in public also. They chose to keep quiet while urging the public to calm down rather than find an amicable solution between Salman’s pleas and the religious organizations. They did not offer any pro-active explanation whatsoever.
Salman’s security advisors ought to know that the governor’s life was at detriment from previous assassination incidents in Pakistan and thus act accordingly. For instance, Benazir Bhutto was killed in a suicide bomb blast when bidding for her third premier term. She had also been shot. The blast killed 23 other people also. Ten years later, General Pervez Musharraf, in charge of the country, suggested that the then regime could have been involved in the Taliban’s assassination mission, contracted by the regime because “the society is radicalized along religious positions” (Hanif, 2011). More so, in Salman’s case, the regime’s opposition leader was the head of the Punjab government, whose part of the responsibility was providing VIPs with security.
Recommendations for Improvement
Although preventing a shooting from one’s inner circle is difficult, Governor Salman should have used armored vehicles and worn a bullet-proof vest while out in the public because his philosophy did not resonate well with the intolerant Pakistani population. Danger lurked everywhere for him. At least a bullet-proof vest could have thwarted bullets to the chest.
Private experts Fein & Vossekuil (2000), found that top politicians should have an optimum number of guards. Having too many guards raises the risk that an intentional or accidental threat may emanate from the security detail itself. Mr. Taseer had over a dozen bodyguards, which were unnecessary. If he had kept the number to, say, four, the chances are that Constable Qadri might not have been among them.
Most important, politicians can use doubles of themselves if the risk of exposure is too high. Although whatever happens to the double can only be imagined, the real politicians are always safe this way.
If a VIP does not trust the supplier of their security detail, like in Salman’s case where the opposition party assigned the guards or the guards themselves are suspicious, they can always hire their own private security from trusted sources (Kubie, 1993).
Secondly, intelligent reports about the personnel should be taken seriously. After thorough screening and analysis, those suspected of foul play must be taken off the security squad even if they might feel wrongly profiled.
Keeping a low profile is another important aspect to consider if a politician becomes unpopular. Carelessness and avoiding overconfidence can help save their lives. Giving media interviews and pressers should be out of the question.
The danger to top government officials cannot be totally wiped out but can be limited. Furthermore, there are different types of protection and defenses available, and a politician should exploit numerous of these as much as possible. Increased protection does not really imply that the danger will be eliminated as well. In all VIP security levels following Taseer’s death, the world is in an era where basic home-made explosive gadgets and suicide bombers are becoming prevalent, and no security measure can actually be fool-proof. This leaves deterrence of such acts to be the lone answer.
Akhter, M. (2012). The Politics of Islam and Democracy in Pakistan.
Events that led to Taseer’s murder. Thenews.com.pk. (2011). Retrieved 2 January 2021, from https://www.thenews.com.pk/archive/print/278526-events-that-led-to-taseer%E2%80%99s-murder.
Fein, R., & Vossekuil, B. (2000). Ncjrs.gov. Retrieved 2 January 2021, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/179981.pdf.
Hanif, M. (2011). How Pakistan responded to Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. the Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/06/pakistan-salman-taseer-assassination.
Khan, S. (2012). The blasphemy laws: A Pakistani contradiction. Master’s thesis, University of California-Irvine.
Kubie, J. (1993). How to foil an assassin: Top politicians who use too many bodyguards may increase the risk of being assassinated, mathematics shows. This is a powerful lesson for sites where safety is critical. New Scientist. Retrieved 2 January 2021, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13818674-300/