Pakistan has hanged the former police bodyguard who shot dead Punjab’s governor over his opposition to blasphemy laws.
The execution triggered protests in several cities denouncing the hanging after some religious and political leaders, as well as militant groups, publicly defended the killer.
Most schools closed yesterday in the capital Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi in fear of violence by supporters of the executed former police officer Mumtaz Qadri.
Qadri’s supporters blocked roads and burned tires, and many shopkeepers shuttered their stores. In some places, the protesters demanded the store owners close their businesses, said police official Sohail Ahmad.
In Qadri’s hometown of Rawalpindi, a mob ransacked a vehicle belonging to a local TV channel and attacked reporters, and in the port city of Karachi, his supporters briefly skirmished with police.
Qadri was on guard duty for secular Governor Salman Taseer who was campaigning in support of a Christian woman jailed for years on accusations of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
Taseer had called for reforms of the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, which impose the death sentence for insulting Islam. The laws are often misused against both Muslims and religious minorities to settle rivalries. Qadri, who repeatedly shot Tasser at a marketplace, later told authorities he killed the governor because he spoke out against the blasphemy laws.
The January 2011 assassination horrified Pakistan’s relatively small liberal elite. However, many Pakistanis praised Qadri - a sign of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism.