Salmaan Taseer dedicated his personal fortune to the cause of publishing the unvarnished truth and the people’s right to know this truth. It would not have been possible for this paper’s editorial board to carry itself independently were it not for Salmaan Taseer’s personal commitment to not only this project but to the very freedoms of speech and expression.
“The sorrowful smell of the mist,
Lingering over the Indus,
Gentle waves of rice, dung and rind,
This is the salt cry of Sindh,
As I die let me feel,
The fragrance of tears”
— Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
“It was a Sindhi poet, Shah Abdul Latif, who captured the forlornness of his country in this haunting verse,” wrote Salmaan Taseer in the opening chapter of his 1979 book, Bhutto: A Political Biography. I have read these words many times but had never once thought that the forlornness might get deeper than the deepest depression one could feel. But the assassination of Salmaan Taseer has left many of us even more devastated and depressed than what Shah Latif could depict.
I do not mourn Salmaan Taseer alone but I also mourn those who have been killed before him on the perilous path of speaking their mind, and those who will be killed in the future on this journey. Ayesha Siddiqa, Kamran Shafi, Nadeem Farooq Paracha, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Sherry Rehman, and so many others are living on borrowed time. It is not a matter of if but when an indoctrinated bigot let loose by the deep state will get to them or, for that matter, any of us who decline to follow the rotten creed that it has been peddling for decades.
However, I have a feeling that Salmaan Taseer would not have wanted to be remembered with melancholy. His illustrious father, Dr M D Taseer, once said:
“Parwana jal kay dil ki muradon ko pa gaya, Aur shama reh gayi rukh-e-zeba liay huay” (Translation: The light-loving moth has died caressing the candle flame. The candle thus remains alone in all its elegance).
It is nearly impossible to accurately translate the above Urdu verse, which my father, Malik Rahat Ali, had quoted while writing Dr M D Taseer’s obituary for Edward’s College, Peshawar’s magazine Tajjali (light) in 1951. The obituary was titled ‘Aik raushan dimagh tha, na raha’ (an enlightened mind is no more). It is amazing how references to light and progressive thought keep popping up when discussing the Taseers and in the work of the Taseers themselves. Pakistan, and the liberal thought within Pakistan, is the candle that Salmaan and M D Taseer loved to the extent that to see it remain alight, they would dedicate their lives to it.
When thinking of Salmaan Taseer, two images come to mind. One is of a political activist and the second is of a patron of progressive and liberal thought. Perhaps senior members of the Indo-Pakistani leftist movement will recall that Dr M D Taseer, along with Abdullah Malik and Rajindra Singh Bedi had pioneered a liberal publishing house called Sangham Publishers in 1947, before the partition. I would not be wrong in assuming that the Daily Times and its media affiliates came into being due to Salmaan Taseer’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. …
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