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Asia

Ashton condemns assassination of Punjab governor, demands justice

The influential governor of Pakistan's biggest province, the Punjab, has been assassinated by one of his own security guards - probably because he was opposed to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

Salman Taseer was appointed governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province by ex-President Musharraf

Salman Taseer was appointed by ex-President Musharraf

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton condemned on Tuesday the murder of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Pakistan's Punjab province.

"The European Union urges the Pakistan authorities to bring the perpetrators of this crime rapidly to justice," said Ashton's statement, read in Brussels.

Salman Taseer, who was in his mid-60s, was attacked near a shopping center in Islamabad's upmarket F-6 sector. He died from his wounds in a local hospital.

"The governor went to the president's house and the Senate in the morning. He then met the information minister," explained Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

"He ate at a small restaurant with a friend. As he was about the step into the car, he was shot. The assasin put his down his weapon and said he had killed Taseer because he had called the blasphemy law a 'black law'."

Controversial blasphemy law

The blasphemy law has been controversial for quite some time, with human rights activists and liberals in Pakistan arguing that it is being misused to target religious minorities, such as Christians.

A recent case, whichtriggered renewed calls for the abolition or reform of the law, also by Taseer, is that of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November.

The political analyst Shafqat Mahmood explained that Taseer was of the opinion that the way the blasphemy law had been framed, it was "prone to misuse and therefore everything should be done to ensure the law is not misused to settle personal scores."

"But people who do not understand, who are semi-literate, who are fed a kind of religious right-wing propaganda, think that he is anti-Muslim," he said.

"He was a bold person. He was a person of almost reckless boldness. He said what he believed. It's a tragedy, a great loss."

The last high-profile assassination in Pakistan was of Benazir Bhutto on 27.12.07

The last high-profile assassination in Pakistan was of Benazir Bhutto on 27.12.07

Influential figure

Salman Taseer was a controversial politician. He was appointed governor of the Punjab by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2008, and was seen to be close to both Musharraf (under whom he had also served as a minister) and the leadership of the Pakistan People's Party, particularly President Asif Ali Zardari. He had a tense relationship with Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), which is the ruling party in the Punjab.

Apart from being a PPP politician, Taseer was also a successful telecoms and media entrepreneur, publishing one of Pakistan's leading dailies, the liberal Daily Times in Lahore, the Punjab's capital. The Punjab accounts for more than half of Pakistan's population.

Salman Taseer leaves behind his wife Amnaa and their six children. His most famous child, however, is Aatish Taseer, whose mother is the well-known Indian journalist Tavleen Singh. In 2009, Aatish Taseer, who lives in Britain, published "Stranger to History," which describes his quest to understand Islam as well as his difficult relationship with his father.

London-based writer Aatish Taseer is the son of Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh

London-based writer Aatish Taseer is the son of Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh

PM declares national mourning

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has declared a three-day period of national mourning. This comes just as the government has lost its parliamentary majority after the withdrawal of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) from the ruling coalition.

To save his government, Gilani has been in talks with other parties including the Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League.

Author: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Anne Thomas

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