Pakistan has executed a man who killed a powerful governor who had opposed the country’s blasphemy laws.
Mumtaz Qadri, a member of police’s elite force, was part of the team guarding Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer in January 2011 when Qadri shot Taseer nearly 30 times in broad daylight in Islamabad.
Qadri was hanged in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi city early Monday after meeting with his family the night before.
Protests broke out in several parts of the country, including Rawalpindi, as news of the execution spread. Security was extremely tight and extra contingents of police and the country’s paramilitary force were deployed to sensitive areas. All roads leading to the capital, Islamabad, were heavily guarded.
Qadri’s crime shocked much of the world, not only because he was responsible for guarding the governor he killed, but also because many members of the country’s legal community celebrated his crime. Hundreds of lawyers showered him with rose petals and offered to fight his case for no fee.
In October 2011, an anti-terrorism court gave him the death sentence, which was maintained by higher courts.
Two weeks after the murder of Punjab’s governor, Minority Affairs Minister Shehbaz Bhatti, another critic of the country’s blasphemy laws, was also gunned down.
Human rights activists have long complained that the blasphemy law is misused to settle private scores. They say people accused of blasphemy often do not get a fair trial because lower court judges are afraid of ruling in their favor.