A Pakistani court has charged the bodyguard of the governor of the Punjab with murder. Mumtaz Qadri killed the former governor, Salman Taseer, on January 4 in Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad over remarks about the country's controversial blasphemy law.
The liberal governor had proposed to make amendments to the law and later received death threats by powerful Islamist groups in the country.
The prosecutor in the case told the media that the charges have been framed against Qadri and the prosecution had been asked by the court to present evidence in the next hearing.
Punished for speaking against the Blasphemy Law
Taseer, who was close to President Zardari, championed the cause of a Christian woman Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death by a Pakistani court under the blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Taseer, gained wide support from the country's religious extremists who believe liberal politicians such as Taseer are diverting Pakistan from its 'Islamic' ideology.
Critics of the controversial blasphemy law say that the law is often misused against Pakistan's religious minorities and to settle personal scores.
A hero for religious extremists
In his statement to the court, Qadri proudly said that he killed the governor to make an example out of him. Qadri was also showered with rose petals by many Pakistani lawyers during his first appearance at a court in Rawalpindi. Many Islamist lawyers offered to defend Qadri in the court free of charge.
However, the liberal section of Pakistan condemned the murder and paid homage to the slain governor for his brave stance on the blasphemy law. Pakistan's liberal lawyer and human rights activists Iqbal Haider said that Qadri's statement was a confession of an unpardonable crime. Pakistan's civil society demands an immediate amendment in the controversial blasphemy law, however the slain governor's party, the ruling PPP, has said that it is not considering a repeal or amendment in the law.
On the other hand, Tariq Mehboob, leader of the Islamist Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan party said Taseer himself was responsible for his murder as "he had hurt the religious sentiments and feelings of the whole nation."
Western countries, in particular the US, accuse President Zardari's government of being soft on Islamist extremism.
Author: Shamil Shams (RTRE, AFP)
Editor: Sarah Berning