A jewel finds her crown in Singapore

A jewel finds her crown in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Watching her at work, one would probably put Madam Sara Taseer down as a regular jeweller and businesswoman.

She speaks in gentle tones to a client over the glass cabinets within her plush, carpeted jewellery boutique at the Hilton Hotel Shopping Gallery.

But her cool and reserved demeanour belies the story of the scion of one of Pakistan's most prominent families, who has now settled down in Singapore.

"I don't know why your readers would have an interest in me," laughs the mother of three children, aged 13, 10 and five.

But she has been the centre of scrutiny for international publications.

Madam Taseer, 43, is the firstborn of the late Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated two years ago.

After some persuasion, she reveals a riveting life of drama, politics and passion.

She had an early introduction: At 12, she was already taking to the streets to fight for women's rights in her home country and she remembers spending a night in jail because she was speaking out for the freedom of the press.

Her father, an advocate for democracy and minority rights in Pakistan, was constantly in and out of jail, as well as in exile. Her mother, a high-profile state lawyer, still lives in Pakistan.

Horror

And during what she dubs the worst period of her life, she watched in horror as news of her father's assassination by his own bodyguard hit national television, even before family members managed to call her about the tragedy.

He was 65 and in his prime, she says. The murder happened when Mr Taseer, then governor of Punjab province, was getting into a car in a market at Islamabad.

The killing made international headlines in January 2011.

Before his death, he had taken a critical position over a high-profile case where a Christian woman had been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Explains Madam Taseer, who has six other siblings: "My father was standing up for Christians in Pakistan, who formed less than 3 per cent of the entire population."

The bodyguard later confessed to murder. He had objected to Mr Taseer's calls to amend the country's controversial blasphemy law.

Madam Taseer, who has been a picture of poise and control throughout the interview, looks uncomfortable when asked about the assassination.

"I don't know what to say... it was a horrible time. It was also very public... media-wise, BBC, CNN, all the international media at home all the time, it was difficult to manage everything," she states quietly, reluctant to say more.

"Even today, I cannot come to terms with it. It has been 2½ years since it happened. You have to be resigned to what had happened, can't fight it, but you can cope with it."

About seven months later, her brother was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen whom she believes to be part of the Taliban. He has yet to return.

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