News / Asia

Pakistan Governor's Assassination Highlights Security, Extremist Problems

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, surrounded by officials and members of his government, offers a prayer during the funeral procession of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan 5, 2011
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, surrounded by officials and members of his government, offers a prayer during the funeral procession of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan 5, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Gary Thomas

The assassination of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province was a shock, coming as it did in the middle of a political crisis for the government. Analysts believe it will have no direct major effect on the central government's precarious stability. The killing may intimidate Pakistani politicians and embolden extremists.

As governor, Salman Taseer was not the most powerful official in Pakistan's most populous province. Pakistan's political setup gives that distinction to the chief minister, rather than the appointed governor.  

Analyst Kamran Bokhari of the private intelligence firm Stratfor says that minimizes the direct political impact on the central government.

"Governors and presidents (in Pakistan) are more ceremonial than actual chief executives," said Bokhari. "From that perspective, it is not such a major blow. But it is, nonetheless, a high-ranking state official - one who was very much prominent in the efforts to revamp the religious laws of the country. And the late Salman Taseer never shied from being very assertive about his views, his secular views."

Taseer was gunned down Tuesday at close range by one of his own bodyguards in an upscale Islamabad market. His assassin said he killed the governor because of Taseer's opposition to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which prescribe the death penalty for anyone accused of "insulting Islam." Critics, like Taseer, say the laws have been used to persecute Christians and other minorities and to settle personal scores.  

It is not clear if the assassin, identified as Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was acting alone or on behalf of others. But the killing underscores the growing clout of religious extremism in Pakistan. And, said Bokhari, it also highlights the problem of extremism in security and police agencies.

"If the people who are protecting the state and society from Islamist insurgents and actually fighting those insurgents are penetrated, then that explains the situation in Pakistan, where the government and the state is having a hard time battling this," said Bokhari.

The governing Pakistan Peoples' Party was already reeling from the sudden withdrawal of the Muttahida Quami Movement from the ruling coalition, leaving the PPP a minority governing party. But Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said Taseer's murder has no real effect on the political crisis.

"Certainly the other parties would be condemning this," said Curtis. "And so I do not think that it in any way sort of deepens the current political crisis that the government is in.  Yet it is a major setback for all of Pakistani society and those who would seek to move forward and to progress."

And, she added, it halts any effort to repeal the blasphemy laws.

"The PPP in the past has tried to roll back these blasphemy laws, but it's always been forced to back away from such initiatives because of pressure from the religious parties," said Curtis. "And I think this will be just one more setback in these efforts."

The opposition, led by Nawaz Sharif, has said it will refrain from pursuing a vote of no-confidence, at least for now. But U.S. Naval War College professor Hayat Alvi - who is expressing personal views - said the opposition can demand and get concessions from the government, including ones concerning the blasphemy laws.

"If there is a concession that they are demanding to stop or impede the repeal of the blasphemy law, then it is a very bad development, if that is what happens," said Alvi. "So there are many opportunities now for the opposition to demand concessions, because they hold that bargaining chip where if they do not get what they want, they can ask for a vote of confidence."

Alvi added that the world of Pakistani politics is wildly unpredictable, in which anything can happen.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid