Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4, 8 September 2012
No one can accuse Radio 4 drama of not being up-to-the-minute in terms of content. A young Christian girl has just been released on bail from a Pakistan jail, after having been accused of blasphemy - specifically burning pages of the Koran. Apparently a man has been remanded in custody, accused of planting the pages on her. Although technically free, there are fears for her future safety, as well as that of her family.
In this dramatized reconstruction of an incident taking place on January 4, 2011, when Salman Taseer, a self-made tycoon and Governor of Punjab, was gunned down in cold blood, after having spearheaded a campaign to amend Pakistan's blasphemy laws. He had been inspired by a case involving Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman who had been sentenced to death in a village in his province.
Narrated by Bennett-Jones, with extracts from interviews with Taseer's family and friends, as well as dramatized reconstructions of some of the major incidents, Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab suggested that Taseer was the victim of an intolerant society which refused to condemn the killing. Although closely associated with the President and his inner circle, not one of them attended his funeral.
It seemed that he was the victim of a witch-hunt. As well as being condemned by most clerics, he had been accused of blasphemy on national television by an interviewer whom his family had once considered a close friend. Later on Taseer was encouraged to "apologize" for his comments, even though he had not actually said anything wrong.
This was a disturbing piece, convincingly performed by a cast including Sagar Arya, Amerjit Deu, Asif, Faryal and Najma Khan, and Ayeesha Menon. It emphasized how mainstream Pakistani society has gradually turned away from the west - to such an extent that even pro-westerners are reluctant to speak out. Perhaps those who embrace more moderate forms of Islam - both inside and outside the country - need to speak out more, so as to make people aware that alternatives do exist. The director was John Dryden.