Mumtaz Qadri,the Pakistani police commando who brutally assassinated liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011 was executed on Monday. The execution has triggered nation-wide protests by Islamists who called it a “black day”.
According to officials Qadri, was hanged in the high security Adialia jail in the cantonment city of Rawalpindi at around 4:30 am.
The guard shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight in an upmarket locality of Islamabad for calling for amendment of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws.
Within hours of the hanging, street protests broke out in several cities by supporters of Qadri, who considered him as a hero for defending the faith, and had threatened violence if he was executed. Activists of Sunni groups, who had accorded a hero-like status to Qadri, blocked main intersections in Rawalpindi, cutting off the main link with capital Islamabad.
Police and paramilitary security personnel were patrolling the roads. Rangers and riot police were deployed outside Qadri’s home in Rawalpindi where hundreds of supporters had gathered and also in Islamabad. A senior police official said high-alert had been issued in Rawalpindi and rest of Punjab province to tackle any untoward situation.
After assassinating Taseer in January 2011, Qadri said he was angered by the Governor’s calls to reform the blasphemy laws. Taseer, who died aged 66, had come out it in support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy and termed the regulations as “black laws” drawing the ire of religious extremists.
An anti-terrorism court had convicted and condemned Qadri to death in the same year, a ruling also upheld by the Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court. A review petition of Qadri was also turned down by the top court on December 14 last year, leaving him with the last option of filing a clemency appeal to President Mamnoon Hussain. The mercy plea was also rejected by the president. Radical religious groups had been demanding that Qadri should be forgiven as he killed a “blasphemer.”
Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ijaz Qadri condemned the hanging. “It is black day in the history of the country. Those who executed Qadri have only spoiled their chances of success hereafter,” he said. The funeral prayer of Qadri will be held on Tuesday in Rawalpindi.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often triggering mob violence. The controversial law was introduced by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq in 1980s and so far hundreds of people have been charged under them.