Police say Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in a shopping market by one of his body guards.
Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s wealthiest and most populated province, was shot dead Tuesday by a zealot bodyguard who told interrogators he was angry over the politician’s opposition to blasphemy laws.
Taseer was a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and had also served as a minister in the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro under Pervez Musharraf. Taseer was also the chairman and CEO of the First Capital and Worldcall Group.
Taseer was appointed to the post of governor on May 15, 2008, in place of outgoing governor, Lt Gen (R) Khalid Maqbool by then-President Musharraf at the request of the PPP establishment.
Blasphemy laws have come under increased public scrutiny in recent weeks after a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad — that is, speaking freely about Christianity to Muslim women working with her at a farm. Asia Bibi was pressured to renounce Christianity and accept Islam, but she allegedly responded by telling the Muslim women that Christ died on the cross for our sins. She added that Jesus is alive and “Our Christ is the true prophet of God.”
Taseer declared that Bibi should be pardoned, which resulted in death threats from Islamist groups across the country.
“I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”
— Taseer tweet on Twitter on Dec. 31.
Dozens are sentenced to death each year under the blasphemy laws, which were implemented in the 1980s under military rule of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Most cases are thrown out by higher courts and no executions have occurred.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced a three-day period of national mourning, ordering flags lowered to half-mast.
At his residence in Lahore, hundred chanted words of support for Taseer.
Experts are worried about infiltration of the Pakistan’s security forces by Islamist extremists. So far it is unknown if the suspect, Mumtaz Qadri, 26, acted alone or had accomplices.