‘Blasphemer’ shot dead in Pakistan
THE influential governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, died today after being shot by one of his bodyguards in the capital, Islamabad.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the guard had told police that he killed Mr Taseer because of the governor’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
The police guard who killed him says he did this because Mr Taseer recently defended the proposed amendments to the blasphemy law. This is what he told the police after surrendering himself. But we are investigating to find out whether it was his individual act or whether someone else was also behind it.
Mr Malik later identified the suspect as Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, who he said had escorted the governor from Rawalpindi today as he had done on five to six previous occasions.
Governor Taseer, 66, was shot several times at close range by the Elite Force guard as he got into his car at the Kohsar Market, a shopping centre in Islamabad popular with Westerners and wealthy Pakistanis, Mr Malik said.
Qadri said in comments broadcast on Dunya television:
Salman Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has declared three days of mourning. He also appealed for calm and ordered an immediate inquiry.
According to this BBC report, the killing was the most high profile assassination in Pakistan since the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the PPP’s leader, three years ago.
Ali Imran, a witness, told the Reuters news agency:
The governor fell down and the man who fired at him threw down his gun and raised both hands.
The interior minister said Mr Taseer’s Elite Force security detail was provided by the Punjab government, and that its members had been thoroughly screened. However, they have all been arrested as part of the investigation.
The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says Mr Taseer, a close associate of President Asif Ali Zardari, was one of Pakistan’s most important political figures and his death will further add to instability in the country.
Hat tip: M A Chohan