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Salman Taseer, a rare moderate voice in Pakistani politics

3 min

Provincial governor Salman Taseer, a moderate politician who regularly spoke out against the Taliban and other Islamist militants was assassinated on Tuesday. Taseer was governor of Pakistan’s most important province, Punjab. He was 66.


AFP - Provincial governor Salman Taseer, who was killed on Tuesday, was one of Pakistan's most colourful and outspoken moderate politicians whose stance against extremism appears to have cost him his life.

Appointed by the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to the most politically important province, Punjab, he was shot dead outside an upmarket shopping centre, apparently for opposing the country's tight blasphemy laws.

He was 66 years old.       

Taseer regularly spoke out against the Taliban and other Islamist militants, accusing opposition parties of failing to stand up to terror groups.  

A dapper dresser with jet black hair, he embraced the media and modern technology, becoming one of Pakistan's most prolific users of social media website Twitter as an outlet for his bold views. 

Taseer often updated his more than 5,500 followers hour-by-hour, if not minute-by-minute on his thoughts, activities and reaction to public events.        

"Prezdnt Zardaris total support of PM has once again silenced rumours of split in PPP top leadership. Govt is here till 2013," was his last tweet on Tuesday, a characteristic expression of confidence in the face of major crisis.            

As a businessman he amassed a fortune but was first elected to the Punjab provincial assembly in 1998. He was close to assassinated ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto and inspired by her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979.       

Taseer served as minister for industry and production under former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from 2007 to 2008 and, after the PPP won general elections in February 2008, was appointed governor of Punjab.    

His father was principal of the prestigious Islamia College of Lahore and he grew up among the country's intellectual elite, going to school with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who later became his chief political opponent in Punjab.      

According to his website, his father died when he was still young, leaving little money for a university education, so his mother sent him to England, where he worked days and studied nights to qualify as a chartered accountant.      

He was jailed for his political views in Lahore during the martial rule of General Zia-ul-Haq in the late 1970s and 1980s, a period that accelerated Pakistan's growing Islamisation.

Taseer made his money as a chartered accountant, setting up consultancy firms and a brokerage house, and with investments in telecommunications, the media, insurance and real estate before going into politics.        

He married twice and fathered six children.

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