Death sentence for killer of Punjab governor over Pakistan’s blasphemy law
A Pakistani court sentenced to death on Saturday the killer of the governor of Pakistan’s largest province after he had called for reform of a law against blasphemy, a defense lawyer and state-run media said. Mumtaz Qadri was a bodyguard for Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer and shot him dead in the capital, Islamabad, on January 4.
Taseer was an outspoken critic of predominantly Muslim Pakistan’s blasphemy law and Qadri is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer himself was a blasphemer by calling for the law’s reform. Qadri had said he was enforcing divine law by murdering a blasphemer.
The killing highlighted a growing gulf between conservatives and more liberal elements in society. Qadri’s supporters took to the streets to denounce the sentence soon after it was handed down at a hearing in a jail where he is being held in the city of Rawalpindi. “By punishing one Mumtaz Qadri, you will produce a thousand Mumtaz Qadris!” one man shouted through a megaphone outside the jail.
The court handed down two death sentences for murder and terrorism to Qadri, who has seven days to file an appeal, state television reported.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law mandates the death penalty and is often used in poor, rural areas to settle personal scores.
Taseer had championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, which arose out of a dispute. Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.