Pakistan has hanged the assassin of a governor who sought to reform the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, officials and supporters said. Mumtaz Qadri – feted as a hero by many supporters – was executed at a prison in Rawalpindi. “I can confirm that Qadri was hanged in Adialia jail early Monday morning,” police official Sajjid Gondal told the AFP news agency.
Qadri, a bodyguard of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, shot him dead in the capital, Islamabad, in 2011. Dozens of rangers and police in riot gear as well as ambulances were stationed outside Qadri’s home in the city early Monday. During his trial, Qadri’s legal defence was that Taseer opposed Pakistan’s so-called blasphemy laws by supporting Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was charged with allegedly desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran. Qadri was convicted and sentenced in late 2011. But he is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer was a blasphemer.
Blasphemy is a highly controversial issue in Pakistan, and angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam in the Muslim-majority country. The law does not define blasphemy but stipulates that the penalty is death. Since 1990, dozens of people have been extrajudicially killed as a result of blasphemy cases.