LAHORE The civil society organisations staged a protest demonstration against the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer at Jinnah Garden on Saturday. The protesters, with play cards and banners in their hands, chanted slogan against the brutal incident. A large number of political and human rights activists including PPP Senator Abida Hussain, Sara Taseer, daughter of late Salmaan Taseer, Ex-Dean NCA Nazish Attahullah, Saleema Hashmi, Tahira Syed, renowned singer Taomoor, representatives of South Asia Partnership, Aurat Foundation, Buleh Shah Foundation participated in the protest. The demonstrators were of the view that the current debate on the blasphemy laws had become so skewed, distorted and governed by fear, that a mans life was taken for merely speaking out against the injustices committed in the name of this law and the brutal murder was widely cheered. They questioned are these the values by which we wish to define ourselves? And is this the society we wish to live in? They said Governor Taseers murder and the subsequent reaction to it demonstrated that the debate on the blasphemy laws had been hijacked by the religious right that threatens anyone daring to engage in it with mortal danger. We believe that living in a democratic state entitles us to debate this law or any law passed by a Parliament in a safe and secure atmosphere. We have the right to debate laws and social issues without threat of harm or loss of life. We also condemn the emerging hero worship of the governors murderer in the strongest way - a man who has committed a brutal murder in broad daylight has become a hero and warrior, not just by the fringe elements of society but also mainstream bodies as is starkly demonstrated by the lawyers showering the killer with rose petals on his arrival in court, while the Islamabad Bar Council, in an unprecedented move has offered the killer free legal representation. The Jamaat-e-Ahle-Sunnat Pakistan, the largest body of the Barhelvi group, came out in support of the killer by insisting that no Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for the Governor or express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident. The civil society representatives said as citizens of Pakistan we demand the government to ensure that this killing does not go unpunished in order to appease the unreasonable voices and we urge the government to ensure that the killer faces a full but fair trial, in order to eliminate the culture of impunity that accompanies crimes committed in the name of religion. We also condemn the culture of incitement and hatred which has so pervaded our society and has been allowed to flourish by the continuing inaction on the part of our successive governments. In order to prevent any such unfortunate incidents from recurring, we implore the government to take real and meaningful action against any and all people inciting hate crimes and the murder of those that dare to engage in the debate about the blasphemy laws they added.