Pakistan funeral held for killed governor, scholars warn

Pakistan held on Wednesday the funeral of Punjab governor Salman Taseer amid warnings by religious scholars.

Pakistan funeral held for killed governor, scholars warn

Pakistan held on Wednesday the funeral of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, following the country's most high-profile assassination in three years amid warnings by religious scholars.

The 66-year-old provincial governor of Punjab was shot dead by a member of his own security detail outside an Islamabad cafe allegedly "because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and members of his PPP attended funeral prayers at Governor's House at the Punjab seat of government in Lahore, which were delayed amid scenes of chaos as the crowd pushed each other.

His coffin, wrapped in the green and white national flag, was then flown the short distance by helicopter to a graveyard in the military cantonment in Lahore, where it was lowered into the ground by uniformed rescue workers.

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(Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a man identified as a guard of governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer, smiles after being detained at the site of Taseer's shooting in Islamabad.)

The city shut down and authorities deployed security forces en masse to guard against possible unrest after dozens of PPP supporters took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the killing.

The suspect was transported in a blue armoured police vehicle for an appearance in court. Some people screamed Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Others threw rose petals.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the bodyguard who killed Taseer, identified as Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, confessed and had been arrested. He is a member of an elite police force.

After he was detained, Qadri said "death is the punishment for blasphemy", according to Reuters news agency.

Taseer was shot 14 times from a distance of about six feet (2 metres), said Khawaja Waseem Ahmed, a spokesman for the hospital where he was treated.

"Blasphemy law"

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan group of scholars issued the statement.

"More than 500 scholars of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat have advised Muslims not to offer the funeral prayers of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer nor try to lead the prayers," the group said in a statement.

"Also, there should be no no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy."

It came two days after a main partner in Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's coalition bolted for the opposition in protest over fuel price policies, leaving him without a parliamentary majority and struggling to save his government.

The blasphemy law came under the spotlight after a court in November sentenced a Christian mother of four to death.

Taseer had visited Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has been sentenced to death by a lower court for violating Pakistan’s laws against blaspheming Prophet Muhammad in prison in a campaign for her release. He wrote on his Twitter page last Friday: "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing."

Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan's main Islamist political parties, also said Taseer's assassination was justified.

"If the government had removed him from the governorship, there wouldn't have been the need for someone to shoot him," it said in a statement shortly before Taseer was buried in the Punjab capital, Lahore.

The group of scholars also said that the so-called intellectuals, ministers, politicians and television anchors who oppose the blasphemy law and support those committing blasphemy should learn a lesson from Taseer's death.


Agencies

Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2011, 16:47
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