Pakistan Punjab Governor Assassinated by Own Guard

Pakistan Punjab Governor Assassinated by Own Guard
File Photo: Salman Taseer with Pakistani Christian Woman Asia Bibi at a prison near Lahore
AP Photo
Pakistan Punjab Governor Assassinated by Own Guard
Salman Taseer, Governor of Pakistan's powerful Punjab province and a key aide of President Asif Ali Zardari, was today assassinated here by one of his security guards who was angered by his opposition to a controversial blasphemy law.

66-year-old Salman Taseer, a senior leader of the ruling PPP, was getting into his car at Kohsar Market in Islamabad's posh Sector F-6/3 when the guard from the Elite Force of Punjab Police shot him with an automatic weapon at a close range, officials said, adding the Governor was hit by nine bullets and sustained severe injuries to the neck and chest.

The Governor was rushed to the Polyclinic Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, his spokesman Farrukh Shah said.

Doctors made an unsuccessful attempt to revive him before declaring him dead.

'Because he called the blasphemy law a black law'

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Karachi that a guard named Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who belonged to Rawalpindi, had surrendered after shooting the Governor.

"When the Governor was getting into his car, the guard shot him. After firing, he put down his weapon and surrendered to police, saying he had shot (Taseer) because he called the blasphemy law a black law," Malik said.

"That is what the bodyguard says but we will hold thorough investigations and find out if this was the real reason for the assassination of the Governor Punjab," he said.

All members of the Elite Force who were guarding Taseer had been detained but only Qadri was formally arrested on the basis of his confession, Malik said.

"It's difficult (to prevent such attacks) when it's someone from within your own circle. We will probe whether it was an individual act or someone got him to kill (the Governor)," Malik said.

Police also detained six other persons at the market and took them to an undisclosed location.

Malik said providing security to the Governor was the responsibility of the Punjab government and it was also their responsibility to screen all those police officers who were deputed to the security of the provincial government officials and ministers.

When asked about a recent intelligence report which warned that all such persons with radical and religious backgrounds should be removed from the teams providing security to VIPs, Malik said, "We will find out if the Punjab government had acted on this report."

"We have lost a dear friend, great human being and a politician of great standing today," the Interior Minister said.

Taseer was a close aide of Zardari, who condemned the assassination and directed Interior Minister Malik to personally supervise the investigation into the killing and report to him urgently.

The President was informed about the assassination during a meeting with PPP leaders in Karachi.

Describing the crime as "most ghastly," Zardari said no words were strong enough to condemn it. "The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be punished," he said.

Man-Made, not God-Made Laws

Salman Taseer had been under attack from the religious right for his support of repeal of Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which had been introduced during the tenure of late President Zia-ul-Haq. He called these laws man-made and not God-made. He had been speaking against the Islamists in his campaign against these laws.

He also campaigned for a presidential pardon of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, who was sentenced to death after being convicted for insulting Prophet Mohammad. Last month, he visited her and continued in his vigorous demand for rationalization of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

He had been declared an apostate and was aware of the threat to his life, as many in Pakistan believe and openly threatened that the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death.

In a recent interview, when asked about the fatwas issued against him, he had said:

People also issued fatwas against Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They issued fatwas against basant. These are a bunch of self-appointed maulvis who no one takes seriously. The thing I find disturbing is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask how many of them are well-to-do? How many businessmen? Why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50% of them are Christians when they form less than 2% of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is misused to target minorities.

His twitter feed, as Foreign Policy, pointed out, did not always win him friends, but some of his recent tweets also reiterated his firm conviction to fight the blasphemy laws:

Now Maulana Fazal ur Rahman wants me out because of my views! Phir hamee qatl ho ayen yaaro chalo

I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy.Refused. Even if Im the last man standing

Mera azm itna bulund hae Parae sholon se dar nahin. Mujhe dar hae tu atish e gul se hae Ye kahin chaman ko jala na dein

Radicalisation in Pakistan

Salam Taseer's alleged killer ‘Qadri’ is said to be a part of Rawalpindi’s elite force and has been arrested by the police and taken to an undisclosed location.

But he is already being eulogised by some in Pakistan. There is already a hugely popular fan page on Facebook, though efforts are on to get it taken off. his fans have made posters saying "salute to the greatness of Ghazi Malik Mumtaz Qadri"

Youtube already has his "confession" where he says the punishment for blasphemers is death and the extent of his brainwashing is clear when he says he prays that the prophet will accept him as his slave.

Clearly, this is a war between the liberals and the fundamentalists in Pakistan and there are many like the noted author Mohammed Hanif who have exhorted the liberal Pakistanis to speak out.

Distressingly, however, as author Mohammed Hanif who also works for BBC Urdu, tweeted: "Colleagues just went out to get vox pops from Karachi streets. EVERYONE approves." When asked if he was serious, he tweeted back, "@beenasarwar @abidhussayn yes. two men refused to talk so we don't know what they believe."

Indian Connection

Salman Taseer married thrice and recently was in news in India when his son Aatish Taseer, from his brief tryst with Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, wrote about him in his memoir Stranger to History, a personalised study of Muslim identity in different countries.
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