Why did a trusted bodyguard turn fanatical assassin?

By murdering the politician he was supposed to protect, Mumtaz Qadri has become a hero for Islamists

It isn't difficult to find the house of Pakistan's most famous killer. At every corner in this maze of packed streets, shopkeepers and street vendors cheerfully gesture directions to the birthplace of Mumtaz Qadri, the police bodyguard who pumped 27 bullets into Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, for his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws. A mere month ago, Qadri was little known even in this modest neighbourhood. Now, he is chillingly vaunted as a hero of Islam in much of Pakistan.

Nowhere is his newly discovered status plainer than outside the crowded, 32-room, multi-storey compound where Qadri lived before his arrest with his wife, three month old son, and 70 other relatives. Vast billboards are mounted on the side, depicting him as a holy warrior astride a white horse, between images of Islam's two holiest sites, in Mecca and Medina. A string of banners are festooned over the narrow street, paying tributes to his "bravery" and "greatness". One poster declares the 26-year-old "the Prophet's policeman".

In a small office near the family's home, Qadri's brothers receive a flurry of guests. Some arrive beaming, offering congratulations. Others solemnly embrace the men, reassure them that their brother will soon be released. The office belongs to Qadri's eldest brother, Dilpazeer Awan, a squat, unsmiling man.

"We were proud of our brother, we are proud of our brother, and we will remain proud of our brother," says Awan, with his arms tightly crossed. "Not just us, but the entire Islamic world is proud of him." Since the assassination, the family's fortunes have soared. Hardline groups have showered them with gifts and cash. The Sunni Tehreek, a militant group spawned by the so-called moderate Barelvi sect, has given them a million rupees (£ 7,400). Another group holds thousands-strong rallies, hailing Qadri's crime.

The family insists Qadri didn't even whisper his murderous intent. "I had no idea what was going to happen," says Awan. "I was astonished to see Mumtaz's face on TV." Qadri, the youngest of six brothers and four sisters, apparently never discussed Taseer or his opposition to the law. "We're not political people," Awan says. Ironically, the family traditionally voted for Taseer's Pakistan People's Party, before shifting allegiances to Sheikh Rasheed, a local cigar-chomping military favourite.

Awan says: "Qadri was very committed to religion, from a young age." On Fridays, he worshipped at the Masjid-e-Amna, where he fell under the sway of a young charismatic preacher, Hanif Qureshi, whose face adorns billboards next to Qadri's. Briefly snatched by the police, he's now free on bail.

It was after absorbing Qureshi's sermons, the police say, that Qadri was inspired to act. The preacher's DVDs are freely available in the area, for 40p. "The punishment for blasphemy is death!" he bellows in one. In others, he bursts into animated song, chanting praises of the prophet, with a teeth-baring smile, as the tail of his black turban flaps about. But this is no fundamentalist. He fiercely rows with hardliners from the rival Deobandi and Wahabi sects. The Taliban have attacked the Sufi shrines he reveres.

Blasphemy, however, is a deep concern. It's the one issue on which a formidable array of religious groups – from the Shia to pro-Taliban types, who find it impossible to pray together and are partial to violent clashes – have found a common cause. Taseer's opposition to the blasphemy laws, which fuel the persecution of Pakistan's minorities, was twisted and cast as an act of blasphemy.

Many blame Pakistan's sensationalist news channels for blurring the distinction and whipping up hostility towards Taseer. Chief among the accused is Meher Bokhari, a voluble political talk-show host famed for her high-decibel interrogation style. In December, she interviewed Taseer. Even by Bokhari's standards, the hostility was striking.

"It's said that you're doing this for point scoring," she asked. Minutes later, she flourishes a fatwa denouncing Taseer, deferentially quoting from it. The day of Taseer's funeral, Bokhari opened her show by comparing Qadri to a Muslim "hero" from the 1920s, who killed a Hindu man for publishing a blasphemous book.

Bokhari denies any wrongdoing, and insists she was presenting facts. Taseer's family feel otherwise. The first show, says daughter Shehrbano Taseer, was "plain incitement to murder". The second, she says, was a "senseless condonation" of it. Bokhari again is no fundamentalist. She doesn't cover her hair, dresses in western clothing and has vociferously denounced the Taliban.

Those willing to speak out against Taseer's assassination are a forlorn minority, most visibly drawn from a well-heeled English-speaking backgrounds, or remnants of the Pakistani left. Mainstream Pakistan has largely slipped into quiet assent. The government has distanced itself from Taseer's position, with a parade of ministers now breathlessly vowing not to touch the law.

Part of the explanation lies in religious guilt. "Articulating love for the Prophet is a way people purge their guilt," says analyst Mosharraf Zaidi. Some is to do with a cultural ambivalence, where people are easy with western influence until it is perceived to cross a red line. Like Bokhari, many perceive efforts to reform the law as western-inspired.

What would Qadri's brothers do if they came across someone accused of blasphemy? I gingerly ask. Would they too resort to murder? "Are you a Muslim?" four of them angrily leap to demand. Yes. "Then, what would you do?" they demand in chorus, led by the second youngest, who speaks for the first time. He is a policeman, and his name is, Muhammad Taseer. Any alleged crime is matter for the courts, surely. "No!" says, Awan. "Allah and his prophet are enough for him!"

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone