Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday struck a defiant tone against the forces of extremism in Pakistan, saying his party would not back down or cower in silence in the face of pressure.
“The assassination of Salmaan Taseer is not about the liberals versus conservatives or moderate Islam versus radical Islam – it is about right and wrong,” said Bilawal at a memorial meeting held in honour of the slain Punjab governor. “It is about the real Islam and a fictional Islam funded from abroad and espoused by violent extremists.”
In a rousing speech at the Pakistan High Commission in London, Bilawal said Taseer had shown through his valour that he was ‘the real Lion of Punjab’ and vowed that his legacy would live forever. He described Taseer as “one of the few heroic politicians left in the ever-depleting pool of brave Pakistani politicians”.
Speaking against the “dark forces of extremism, intolerance and bigotry intent on devouring our country and our faith,” he said that Taseer’s assassination was a message from these forces to us to remain silent and frightened in the face of terror and injustice. But, he said, in the tradition of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, we refuse to bow down.
The only antidote to extremism, he pointed out, is the democratic process. The PPP chairperson said that the preachers of hatred had never enjoyed the electoral support of the people of Pakistan and only gained power through dictatorship.
Bilawal vowed to defend the country’s embattled Christians and other minority communities against extremists. Addressing the minorities directly, he said: “Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.”
“The children of Zia will continue to throw tantrums,” he added, “as we the children of Bhutto continue to work for the resurrection of the Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan.”
Also speaking at the occasion were former Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP Sadiq Khan, Conservative MP Rehman Chishti, Councillor James Shera and PPP lawmaker from Quetta Syed Nasir Ali Shah.