Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My new poster girls…

Sara Taseer (rear) with her late father Salmaan Taseer (right). Pic by Sara. 

I have become a fan of sorts of assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s two daughters – Sara and Shehrbano.     
I enjoyed reading Salmaan Taseer’s well-composed and tongue-in-cheek tweets and that was my window to the man who liked swimming against the tide; but in his death I have learnt more about him than in his life - thanks to Sara and Shehrbano.

I often spotted Sara, Salman’s jewellery designer daughter on Twitter, and on one occasion when she tweeted “wish me luck” - I did - and was surprised with her quick “thank you!”

I knew little of Shehrbano, Salmaan’s journalist daughter, till I read this tweet “a light has gone out in our home today”, a day or two after 27 bullets were pumped into Salmaan Taseer by his own security guard for opposing the blasphemy law of Pakistan.

“Thank you to each and every single person who sent messages of condolence. This is more than just a personal loss; it is a great loss for Pakistan,” Shehrbano tweeted.

Days later, I saw her on NDTV with Barkha Dutt. Shehrbano made an impact and held her own, making Barkha seem very repetitive and silly. Sara, too, was very articulate and composed in her interviews, emphatically putting forth her father’s point of view on the blasphemy law.

I have been hooked to the girls’ tweets ever since, going back and forth often, their pain always hitting me with the same intensity.

“Today I wait for the morning knock on my door saying sahib is calling you. I'm in bed still. No one calls,” tweeted Sara, who loved having “nihari” with father on Sunday mornings when she was in Lahore.

“He runs in my veins, in my blood, my genetic memory & DNA. I can never lose him," read another tweet by Sara.

I always remember a line from an Op-Ed piece Shehrbano wrote for the New York Times - “we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others” - when I see the girls posting their father’s favourite quotes, “…who will guard the guards?” and “you live life once, you live it by your principles and you live it courageously- that’s what it's about", or crusading against their father’s murderer’s supporters who showered rose petals on the killer.

A couple of days ago, Sara tweeted that she was sent a poster of her father’s murderer. “Was sent poster of murderer Q declaring the 26-year-old ‘the Prophet's policeman’. Hmmm...Could the Prophet (PBUH) really trust this man?” she posted, even though the girls have been getting their share of threats for speaking out.

In another one Sara wrote: “Sometimes pple say such sick things. I wonder if they ever learnt anything. Parents school society any input of civility?”

Of course, I am not the only one who is a fan of the girls. Their list of followers has swelled in the past month or so. Almost all of Pakistan’s Twitterati have been one with them in their sorrow, except perhaps Fatima Bhutto, the author-journalist niece of slain former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto, whose own father was ironically shot dead when she was in her teens.

On January 4, when everyone expressed shock at Salmaan’s brutal killing, Fatima posted: “2,043 Pakistanis, mainly civilians, killed by drone attacks in the last 5 years. 2010 deadliest year according to Conflict Monitoring Centre.”

Move on Fatima Bhutto. And three cheers for the Taseer girls!


  1. Hi,
    In India Taseer's murder made lot of waves. What was most surprising was the sympathy the murderer got from Pakistani people. Here the media wrote a lot on how the liberal part of the society has become completely marginalized. It feels scary to hear that. All the piece initiatives of the Indian government and the yearning for peace among Indians with Pakistan are based on one belief: that people in general are different from the fundoos we generally get to hear, but the outpouring of sympathy for Taseer's murderer has dashed the belief to an extent. We have become pessimistic about that country.

    By the way, do you know that Taseer has a love child together with an Indian journo....I am forgetting his name now but that guy is a good writer and has published two books; one of them - A Son's Journey through Islamic Countries where he has written about his relationship with Taseer - sold well in India. His second book also did well.

  2. I enjoyed reading Salmaan Taseer’s well-composed and tongue-in-cheek tweets

    very strange that you say such a thing for a person whose tweets about India [considering that you've claimed to be an Indian] often involved messages such as this,

    Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology (GSLV)? Stick 2 bollywood my advice

    Extremely unfortunate

  3. Indra, as always thanks for reading and commenting :)

    Anon, We never claimed to be Indians. WE ARE INDIANS. It is a fact that Salmaan Taseer sometimes took a dig at India and he was told off by many Indians when he posted messages like the one you refer to. However, he mostly tweeted on interesting issues and was very forthright in taking up controversial issues like the blasphemy law. This post is more about his bravery and the courageous response of his family to his assassination.

  4. Thanks for this thoughtful post and for rising above ST's digs at India that Anon holds against him. As you say, there was much more to him than that. And as Sheherbano said, it's not just the family's loss but all of Pakistan's. Here's something I wrote about the glorification of Qadri: http://beenasarwar.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/personal-political-manufacturing-a-‘hero’/

  5. Very thoughtful post.
    There are times when I feel like sitting Fatima Bhutto down and tell her to move on, but then that would be wasting my breath

  6. Beena, tks. Will surely check out the post.

    Tazeen, tks, and you do have a point there! :)

  7. When people like Taseer and Bhatti are being murdered in Pakistan and their murderers enjoy public support, is it not hypocracy when they complain that Muslims are not treated well in the West or India?