Protests erupt in Pakistan over execution of Mumtaz Qadri

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Pakistan: Following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri yesterday, convicted for the 2011 murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, thousands of protesters took to the streets across Pakistan.

Scores of heavy security have been deployed in Rawalpindi where thousands are expected to mourn Mumtaz Qadri, who was hailed as an Islamist hero among his supporters.

Trained as an elite police commando, Qadri was assigned to Salman Taseer as his bodyguard. In January 2011, Qadri shot the politician at an Islamabad market. He was sentenced to death later that year.

Qadri was executed at 04:30 local time (23:30 GMT) at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi yesterday.

Salman Taseer was one of the most prominent liberal politicians in the country and a close associate of the then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Taseer was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and supported liberal reforms. Qadri being a firm Islamist, thus, felt his religious duty to kill the minister.

Mostly peaceful rallies were staged by Qadri’s supporters in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. Highways were also blocked into Islamabad while demonstrators were seen chanting slogans and burning tyres.

Schools are shut and markets are closed in Islamabad where lawyers are observing a strike. The neighboring Rawalpindi, where the burial will take place, has been kept off-limits for commuters. There is heightened security in all major cities and towns including Karachi.

The funeral is expected to witness large crowds pouring in while religious groups like Jamaat-e-Islami are building tempo, terming the day of Qadri’s hanging as the “black day” and announcing daily protests until Friday.

Regarded as an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores by various religious groups. Target minorities also had to bear the brunt of such unfairness.