Salman Taseer – A son’s tribute to his father

“I am not made from a wood that burns easily.” My father said these words to my mother while being persecuted in jail by his political opponents. My mother always told me that regardless of how hard their struggle was those words gave her comfort. They gave her strength to stand by my father in an extremely difficult situation.

When my kidnappers asked me to record my first video to my family I decided that I to would use those same words to give comfort to my wife and mother. And so I told them that I was made from the same wood as my father. I think it helped. I, at the time, was not made from that same wood. My trials were about to begin. The understanding of how hard they may or may not be hadn’t dawned upon me yet. But I took comfort in those words. Almost as if they had become an oath for me. Everytime my body or mind were put to test I would continuously tell myself that my father had endured hardship and pain for his beliefs. He had faced hunger, torture and imprisonment willingly to conquer its inflictors. He had faced loneliness so that the songs of freedom could be sung by others. He stood tall in the face of death so that we, the people of this great country, could live with dignity and honour.

How does someone sacrifice comfort? How does someone give up a life of ease purposely? Honestly those questions still baffle me. But my father was that man. And there are not to many men of that calibre. Of that wood.

Today it is 6 years since my father was assassinated. I still remember the 4th January, 2011 vividly. I was on the phone with him. He told me he had just finished his lunch and was going to buy a book and then come back to Lahore. It was my younger brother Shehryar’s birthday. I said goodbye not realizing that would be the last time I would hear his voice. I was also the first person to find out he had died. I had to go to my younger siblings and my mother and tell them. It was probably till this day the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

I spent the next 7 and a half months trying to understand why this had happened to my father. Not Salmaan Taseer ,the fearless governor who stood by what was just and right and spoke up courageously for the weak , the oppressed and the marginalized when most others had been cowed down by the threat posed by extremists. But my father the one who always had my back. I knew no one could ever re-create that bubble of comfort and safety for me. But after the 26th of August 2011 ,the day of my kidnapping I realized that Salmaan Taseer had died for the people of Pakistan. He had died to show-up the good that is in us. He had died to prove that this country was not all about bigotry and intolerance . I believe this that the people of my country know this and that his sacrifice has given us the courage to raise our voices against all kinds of injustice.. But there is a deep personal side to this. During the hard days of my captivity I started feeling that my father had died so that he could save me in a place where no one else could. I told a friend that parents never leave us. They are a lot more than just a physical presence. They embody themselves in your heart and soul. And when you are facing your hardest trials their strength resonates through you. Its not your own. It can never be your own. I know this because I don’t have the same incredible strength I had just 9 months ago. The comforts of freedom make the past seem almost like a bad dream. People see me and think its amazing that I am the same person. It is. But I saw my father in a dream while I was being tortured and wanted to give up. I wanted it to end. He held me and told me the same words that I had said. His words. I could hear them whispered in my ear ,‘You are not made from a wood that burns easily’ till I fell asleep. The next day when my kidnapper came to torture me, I stood up and held the chain I was meant to be tied to. I took a 100 lashings. I collapsed in pain but I stood up the next day. And the day after.Week after week for years. I did it because these cowards laughed at the legacy that my father had left. They thought that by destroying me they would somehow conquer him. That was never happening. By kidnapping me for the man that my father was. For torturing me to mock him, all they did was give me a purpose. A reason to struggle. It was a personal struggle. It’s a personal victory. But I believe that through me my father was victorious. Imagine. The day I walked out of a Taliban jail in Rozgan Afghanistan at the exact same time his assassin was being led to his execution . Allah SWT says in the Quran that we will show you miracles time and time again but your hearts will be hard with disbelief and so you will never have faith. This was my miracle and it gives me great faith. Just a few days before I started my journey back home a friend of my mothers had a dream and she told her that I was praying and I saw Salmaan sitting right infront of me. He looked at me and said ,’My work is done , I am going to rest.’ Your work can never be done, Abba, because the void you left can never be filled but thank you for looking after me when I needed you the most. I don’t know how I would have spent those years without you. The stories of your life inspired me to live. I never got an opportunity to mourn you all these years because I felt like you were with me. Today for the first time in 6 years I feel you have gone. But I am not sad. I always knew you were much larger than life and I know you are in a better place. You were the greatest man I ever had the privilege to meet but for me even more than that you were my Abba and the best anyone could ask for.

Article Source: Daily Times

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