Pakistan: Hanging of assassin of Punjab governor sparks protests

Pakistan: Hanging of assassin of Punjab governor sparks protests

Monday, February 29, 2016 5:28 am

Pakistan: supporters of the assassin display his photo

Pakistan: supporters of the assassin display his photo

Pakistan on Monday executed a man who killed the governor of Punjab province over his call to reform the country’s strict blasphemy laws that carry a death sentence for insulting Islam, police said.

Protests broke out within hours by supporters of the killer, who consider him a hero who defended the faith, broadcaster Geo TV reported.

But the police were ready to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

According to AFP, around 50 Rangers and police in riot gear as well as ambulances and dozens of police vehicles were stationed outside Qadri’s home in the city early Monday, blocking the street and refusing to allow people to enter.

A memorial for the reformist governor of Punjab

A memorial for the reformist governor of Punjab

Armed Rangers could be seen stationed on the roof of the building housing Qadri’s residence and some roads in the neighbourhood were closed.

Cries were heard from inside the house as around 20 people gathered, apparently family members, and mosques could be heard broadcasting news of the execution.

“We have beefed up security in Rawalpindi to maintain law and order and to deal with any untoward situation,” senior police officer, Sajjid Gondal said.

He said the hanging took place after a final meeting between Qadri and his family late Sunday, and that the body had been sent to his relatives.

Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of Taseer shot him 28 times in broad daylight in an upscale market in the capital Islamabad in 2011.

“Qadri was hanged at around 4:30 a.m.,” Gondal told Reuters by telephone. The execution took place at the Adiala jail in the city of Rawalpindi outside Islamabad.

Taseer had championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case that arose out of a personal dispute. Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.

Late in 2011, an anti-terrorism court handed down a double death sentence to Qadri for murder and terrorism. The sentence was appealed and upheld by the Supreme Court late last year.

More than 100 people are charged with blasphemy each year in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, many of them Christians and other minorities.

Conviction of blasphemy carries a death sentence, although no one has yet been hanged for the charge.

Controversy over the law has exposed the growing gap between religious conservatives and liberals in Pakistan, with hard-line religious leaders considering Taseer a blasphemer himself for even criticising the law.

Some lawyers showered Qadri with rose petals when he first arrived in court days after the killing. The judge who first convicted him was forced to flee the country after death threats.

*Reported by AFP and Reuters

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