News / Asia

Thousands Attend Funeral of Slain Pakistan Governor

Pakistani police guards carry the coffin of late Punjab governor Salman Taseer during the funeral procession in Lahore on Jan 5, 2011.
Pakistani police guards carry the coffin of late Punjab governor Salman Taseer during the funeral procession in Lahore on Jan 5, 2011.
Ayaz Gul

Thousands of people in Pakistan have attended the funeral of a provincial governor, a day after he was shot dead by one of his security guards.  The suspect has told investigators he assassinated the high-profile political figure because of his opposition to the country's anti-blasphemy law.  There has been widespread condemnation of the killing in and outside Pakistan.  But some Islamic groups in the country have praised the assassin.  

The slain governor of the country's powerful Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was laid to rest in the regional capital, Lahore.  Tight security arrangements were in place and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was among many top leaders who attended the funeral.  

The high-profile Pakistani politician from the country's ruling party was assassinated Tuesday by one of his security guards, who says he was incensed by Taseer's opposition to the national anti-blasphemy law.

Human-rights groups in Pakistan have long demanded the legislation be reformed or repealed because they say it discriminates against the country's non-Muslims and is often abused by Muslim fundamentalists and ordinary people to settle personal disputes.

The law carries the death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad and came under the spotlight after a court sentenced a Christian mother of four to death for making blasphemous remarks.  The woman insists she is innocent and Taseer had visited her in prison as part of a campaign for her release.   

Human-rights activist Farzana Bari says the killing of the prominent politician has created a sense of insecurity among liberal forces in the country.   

"Look at the way this guy [killer of Taseer] has done everything," said Farzana Bari. "He has done it in a public space to send this wave of terror in the country that whosoever will dare to speak they will silence their voices like that.  And I do not think it is an individual, it is mindset behind that."

In recent weeks, members of the country's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party have been pushing for reforms in the anti-blasphemy law and one of them has submitted a proposed bill for debate in the parliament.  The federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, has been among those proposing changes in the law to prevent its abuse.

"People have been killed extra judicially, people are in prison, "said Bhatti. "And most of the basis in the cases of blasphemy are personal disputes, economic reasons; political, religious and other differences.  And anybody can go to the police to register a case against religious blasphemers and there is no mechanism to punish those people who file false cases."

But growing pressure from religious groups forced Prime Minister Gilani early this week to publicly state the government has never intended to change the blasphemy law.

Professor Bari alleges the change in the government's position led to the killing of the provincial governor.

"Particularly, when the government backed out and capitulated to this pressure, which was built by these extremist religious forces, Salman Taseer was actually then left alone and singled out," said Bari. "That shows a very dangerous trend that how our security forces have been radicalized, how there are sections of society which have been radicalized.  And our government is completely not taking its social responsibility to protect citizens of this country who probably hold different views because the blasphemy law is clearly a discriminatory law."

On Wednesday, the accused killer was transported in a police vehicle for a court appearance in Islamabad.  As he entered the court room, his supporters chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest) while about 300 lawyers told the judge they are willing to defend the suspect.  

The assassination of Taseer came as recent defections in the ruling coalition have deprived Prime Minister Gilani of majority in parliament.  He is making attempts to win support of right-wing political and religious parties that have publicly condemned proposed changes in the anti-blasphemy law.   

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More