Dawn, Salman Taseer PunJab Governor

January 4, 2011 by staff 

Dawn, (AP) – The governor of the powerful Pakistani province of Punjab was shot in the capital Tuesday by one of his own guards, who later told interrogators after he was angry about the policy position against the law the blasphemy of the country, officials said.

The murder of Salman Taseer was the highest level assassination of a politician in Pakistan since former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, and shaken a country already struggling with crises ranging from a potential collapse of the government to a virulent Islamist insurgents.

The murder could also add to concerns about inroads by Islamic extremists and fundamentalists in Pakistan’s security establishment and represented a further blow to Pakistan is a country in difficulty lay movement.

Taseer was a member of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. The governor was vocal on a range of topics, even using Twitter to get his point of view.

Taseer, including black sunglasses were one of its most recognizable features, was a businessman and media was appointed governor of Punjab ceremony in May 2008.

Punjab is the most populous province and Pakistan and the provincial government is headed by the Popular Party’s rival party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

The province is a major base and recruiting ground for the powerful Pakistan army and the security establishment. As religious fundamentalism in Pakistan has increased, concerns have been raised about its impact on soldiers from Pakistan, police and other armed forces.

Someanlysts have suggested that members of the fundamentalist establishment of security represent a greater threat of nuclear proliferation in Pakistan as militant groups like the Taliban.

These days, that the Popular Party has faced the loss of its coalition partners, the 56-year Taseer had insisted that the government will survive. But it was his very public stance against the blasphemy law, which apparently led to his assassination.

Blasphemy law in Pakistan has undergone a more thorough examination of recent weeks after a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The law effectively orders the death of any person convicted of insulting Islam.

Taseer said Bibi should be granted a pardon, a position that earned him the opprobrium of Islamist groups across the country as well as threats, as Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities.

“I was under tremendous pressure that the cow at 2 b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refusal. Even if I am the last man standing, “wrote Twitter Taseer December 31.

“It was the most courageous voice after Benazir Bhutto on the rights of women and religious minorities,” said crying Farahnaz Ispahani, a Zardari associate and friend of Taseer. “God, he will be missed.”

An intelligence official to question the suspect, identified as Mumtaz Qadri, told The Associated Press that the bearded elite commando police force boasted of the murder, saying he was proud of killing a blasphemer .

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the record.

Qadri is 26 and Barakhao, a suburb of Islamabad, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Dozens of Pakistanis sentenced to death each year under the blasphemy law, which dates back to the 1980s military rule of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Most cases are dismissed by higher courts, and no executions have been carried out, but rights activists have long complained that the law is used to settle rivalries and persecute religious minorities.

Under pressure from Islamic parties, the Popular Party said recently that it would not change the law.

Bhatti, the minister for minorities, said religious minorities in Pakistan would join the People’s Party in its plans to have a two-week period of mourning for Taseer. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also announced a three-day period of national mourning and ordered flags lowered to half-mast.

Police official Mohammad Iftikhar said Taseer was shot after reaching Kohsar Market, a shopping center in the popular with Westerners and rich Pakistanis, Islamabad. Five other people were injured other security personnel responded to the attack.

“It was a first shot and then a burst. I think nine or 10 shots, “said AR Khan, a witness who was drinking coffee at the time.”I ran and saw the police on another police commando, who was lying on the road with his face hidden.”

Taseer was believed to be on his way to see someone for a meal, Malik said. Other members of its security arrangements have been questioned, said Malik, who added that security for Taseer was provided by the Punjab government.

“We’ll see if it was an individual act or someone had asked him” to do, Malik said the attacker.

Bullet casings and blood covered much of the scene on the market, and police quickly cordoned off the area. At the hospital, the People’s Party supporters wept and beat their heads after the news.

Outside his residence in the eastern city of Lahore, hundreds of supporters chanted slogans in his name, while in the central city of Multan dozens of supporters of the Popular Party have burned tires and demanded that the attackers are punished.

Human rights activists have been dismayed by the death Taseer, particularly given the difficulties of the Popular Party has had in promoting any legislation on human rights because of his alliances with Islamist parties.

“Taseer has proved to be a rare politician, willing to risk his life by marrying a clear position against discrimination and abuse,” Ali Dayan Hasan said, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

After Taseer was nominated for the post of Governor of Punjab, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N has expressed reservations, and he often in conflict with the party. PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif visited the hospital where the body was taken Taseer and promised an investigation into the death.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad and BK Bangash contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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