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05 January 2011

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer assassinated in Islamabad, Accused of Criticizing Anti Blasphemy Law


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5 January 011

The assassination has drawn condemnation from around the world.

However, some Pakistani religious leaders have praised the governor's killer and called for a boycott of the ceremonies in Lahore, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad.

One small religious party, the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan, warned that anyone who expressed grief over the assassination could suffer the same fate.

"No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident," the party said in a statement.

It said anyone who expressed sympathy over the death of a blasphemer was also committing blasphemy.

The Pakistani Taliban - Tehreek Taliban - also said anyone offering prayers for Mr Taseer would be guilty of blasphemy.

Speaking to the BBC, its deputy chief, Ehsanullah Ehsan, also warned religious scholars not to change their stance on blasphemy laws.

The bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri was detained immediately after the shooting at Kohsar Market in Islamabad. He confessed to the murder, said Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik.

At his first court appearance in Islamabad the guard was showered with rose petals by sympathetic lawyers and hugged by other supporters.

He was remanded in police custody and is due back in court on Thursday on charges of murder and terrorism.

Suspect Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri at court in Islamabad, 5 JanSuspect Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri was garlanded and hugged at court in Islamabad

After leaving court he stood next to an armoured police van wearing a garland of flowers given by a supporter and shouted "God is great".

Analysis

The assassination of Governor Salman Taseer appears to have raised the level of threat against liberal voices in Pakistan.

While many religious leaders have publicly justified the murder, the liberal sections of society have been more cautious in condemning it. This is due to the rising tendency in society to silence voices of religious dissent by force, a tendency promoted by militant groups and condoned by religious forces active in the political sphere.

Even within the clerical community, many liberal voices have been silenced. Some have been blown up in suicide attacks, others have migrated. In a country where religious politicians have never won an election, this policy of intimidation has expanded their influence. They often distance themselves from acts of militancy but still try to justify them.

For example, they often condemn suicide attacks by militants on civilian targets, but qualify the act as caused by "anger over excesses being committed against Muslims by Western powers". Following Mr Taseer's assassination, they mostly did the same: condemning the act but justifying the killer who "acted in defence of the dignity of the Prophet". As is evident from Mr Taseer's assassination, any counter-argument can invoke a decree of death


Yesterday>>>> 4-01-2011

The influential governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, has died 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.

Many were angered by his defence of a Christian woman sentenced to death.



Salman TaseerSalman Taseer was politically close to the president

Analysis

The assassination of Salman Taseer once again highlights Pakistan's unending troubles. He was a high-profile leader of the PPP, and was governor of the country's largest province, Punjab. His death has left the country in shock at a time when it faces an imminent political crisis.

On the face of it, the assassination appears to be an individual act of a police guard in Mr Taseer's security detail. The guard has reportedly said he killed him because Mr Taseer publicly opposed the blasphemy law.

But the timing of the assassination holds deeper implications for the government, which is struggling to shore up political support to maintain a majority in the parliament. Whether it gets this support will be decided by one of two major political forces of Punjab - the opposition PML-N and the PML-Q parties. The assassination has the potential to upset these negotiations.

A man identified as Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri is driven away by police after the killingA man identified as the suspected assassin was photographed being driven from the scene

"Salman Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer," Mr Qadri said in comments broadcast on Dunya television.

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.

The PPP-led government is facing a crisis that erupted after its junior coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), quit on Sunday. Mr Taseer had said it would survive.

"Prezdnt Zardaris total support of PM has once again silenced rumours of split in PPP top leadership. Govt is here till 2013," was the last tweet he wrote on Tuesday.

Shortly before Mr Taseer's death, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had announced that it would not demand a vote of no confidence in Mr Gilani because to do so would exacerbate instability.

Full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12111831