Pakistanis demand release of killer

Waving flags, shouting slogans and setting fire to tyres, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Pakistan's cities yesterday, expressing anger at the death sentence handed to a police officer for assassinating a provincial governor who wanted to reform the country's draconian blasphemy laws.

Mumtaz Qadri, one of Punjab governor Salman Taseer's bodyguards, was convicted of murder after he shot the governor 27 times in Islamabad in January. There were chilling scenes of celebration after the killing, with many hailing Qadri as a "hero of Islam". He has appealed against his sentence and the judge in the case was forced to take "indefinite leave" for his own safety.

"This death sentence should be stopped," said Fayaz ul Hassan Chauhan, who organised a protest in Qadri's neighbourhood in Rawalpindi. "It is the responsibility of every Muslim to stop blasphemy," he added, as a crowd around him nodded vigorously.

Mr Taseer, 66, had mounted a campaign to release Aasia Noreen, a poor Christian farmhand who became the first woman in the country to face execution after she was falsely accused of making blasphemous remarks.

Human rights campaigners say the blasphemy laws are vaguely worded and often used as a tool of social control. Since the introduction of a sharper clause, the laws are often invoked to settle vendettas, to give militants cover or to persecute minority groups.

In the Muslim neighbourhood of his home city, however, Qadri is considered a hero. When he appeared in court on the day of Mr Taseer's funeral, lawyers showered him with rose petals. Nine months later, walls are daubed with graffiti saluting his "bravery". Children carry posters of him and speak of him in awed tones.

Outside the assassin's home, crowds chanted hymns in his honour yesterday before setting off on their march towards Islamabad. They prefer to call the convicted killer a ghazi, or Islamic fighter. "O, ghazi, when you are taken up to meet the Lord," said a thickly bearded man with moist eyes, "please don't forget about us sinning folk down here!"

In Lahore, 2,000 people came on to the streets. Many shops there, as in Rawalpindi, remained shut after a raft of religious groups called for a "strike". The banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, backed the protests.

The sentencing of Qadri, while a tremendous source of relief for Mr Taseer's family, has come at a difficult time. Shahbaz Taseer, one of the governor's sons, was abducted 43 days ago and there has been no contact with his kidnappers, who are reported to be militants in North Waziristan.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam