Deposed Pakistan dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf spoke with BBC about the recent pro-democracy movements in the Middle East. During his interview, Musharraf stated that “good dictatorship is better than bad democracy.”
Asked about his role in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and whether he had any prior knowledge of the attack, Musharraf replied, “I don’t want to discuss that.”
This latest statement of Musharraf’s anti-democratic political philosophy comes a week after the former dictator defended torture under his regime. Asked by BBC’s Peter Taylor if he believes “the ends justifies the means,” Gen. Musharraf answered, “Yes,” and went on to say that the British government gave “tacit approval for whatever we were doing.” The British government denies that any approval, tacit or otherwise, was given for torture.
I am shocked and outraged by the assassination today of Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti. This was an attack not only on one man, but on the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths and backgrounds championed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Minister Bhatti. He was a patriot and a man of courage and conviction. He cared deeply for Pakistan and dedicated his life to helping the least among us on Earth. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends.
The United States remains committed to working with the government and people of Pakistan to build a more stable and prosperous future for all — a future in which violent extremists are no longer able to silence the voices of tolerance and peace.
I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti today in Islamabad, and condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of violence. We offer our profound condolences to his family, loved ones and all who knew and worked with him. Minister Bhatti fought for and sacrificed his life for the universal values that Pakistanis, Americans and people around the world hold dear – the right to speak one’s mind, to practice one’s religion as one chooses, and to be free from discrimination based on one’s background or beliefs. He was clear-eyed about the risks of speaking out, and, despite innumerable death threats, he insisted he had a duty to his fellow Pakistanis to defend equal rights and tolerance from those who preach division, hate, and violence. He most courageously challenged the blasphemy laws of Pakistan under which individuals have been prosecuted for speaking their minds or practicing their own faiths. Those who committed this crime should be brought to justice, and those who share Mr. Bhatti’s vision of tolerance and religious freedom must be able to live free from fear. Minister Bhatti will be missed by all who knew him, and the United States will continue to stand with those who are dedicated to his vision of tolerance and dignity for all human beings.
“We strongly condemn the assassination today in Pakistan of Punjab Provincial Governor Salmaan Taseer. I had the opportunity to meet Governor Taseer in Pakistan and I admired his work to promote tolerance and the education of Pakistan’s future generations. His death is a great loss. Our deepest sympathies are with Governor Taseer’s wife and children.
“The United States remains committed to helping the government and people of Pakistan as they persevere in their campaign to bring peace and stability to their country.”
“I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Governor Taseer. On behalf of the United States, I offer my condolences to his wife and children,” said U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter. Speaking about the assassination of Punjab Provincial Governor Salman Taseer, Ambassador Munter said, “He had the courage of his convictions and was a champion of tolerance. His death is a great loss to the people of Pakistan.”
Today, Pakistan lost an outspoken defender of justice and democracy when Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad. Governor Taseer was a vocal critic of religious extremism and called for the government to reform laws that discriminated against women and religious minorities.
Speaking to Newsweek Pakistan, Governor Taseer spoke about the need for Pakistan’s political leadership to take a strong stand against terrorism.
Dealing with the militants has to be no holds barred. Their lives should be made hell; they should be prosecuted, and sent to hell where they belong. You saw what happened with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal [a coalition of religious parties] government in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa during the Musharraf years. They turned a blind eye, and in five years the terrorists had established a whole network of safe havens and training camps to launch their campaign of terror. The MMA government never claimed to be with them, but never took them on. If you take the same approach in the Punjab, you’ll get the same results.
Just last week, Governor Taseer reiterated his call to defend Pakistan’s most vulnerable citizens against the forces of religious extremism and intolerance – a principle he took from his own deeply held religious beliefs.
Unfortunately and sadly there are people who feel bigger when they pick on someone who cannot fight back. It’s called bullying. I went to Sheikhupura jail to stand up against a bully and it has encouraged others to do so as well. That’s what taking a moral stance is. I am honestly happy to say that I am heartened by the huge response from ordinary folk. Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law. Ghamdi, for example, has stated clearly that this has nothing to do with Islam – Islam calls on us to protect minorities, the weak and the vulnerable.
In recent months Governor Taseer took up the fight to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and called for the pardon of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death late last year. His support for justice and democracy was passionate, but always based in reason.
With his quick wit and sharp tongue, Salmaan Taseer was a larger than life figure in Pakistani politics. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family and loved ones on this sad day. Far from silencing the call for democracy and justice, though, Salmaan Taseer’s assassins have only strengthened our determination. His words will continue to guide us in the struggle to protect the rights of all Pakistanis.
A United Nations Commission yesterday released a report on the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.[PDF] While stopping short of pronouncing criminal guilt, the report serves as a searing indictment of General Pervez Musharraf and the actions – or lack thereof – of authorities under his regime. While the report will likely spur criminal investigations in Pakistan, it serves as a harsh reminder of the vital importance of supporting the struggling movement for democracy in Pakistan.