Lahore: A thousand Pakistani clerics have asked President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman sentenced to death for assassinating Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011.
The clerics belonging to different schools of Islamic thought signed a letter seeking a pardon for Qadri, and it was submitted to the President by Sunni Ittehad Council chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza.
In October 2011, an anti-terrorism court awarded the death penalty to Qadri, an Elite Force commando, for gunning down Taseer in Islamabad earlier the same year.
The policeman, who was part of Taseer`s security detail, confessed to the murder and said he was angered by Taseer`s calls for changes in Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law.
"Qadri had no personal enmity with Taseer. Taseer had committed blasphemy by calling the blasphemy law black and supporting a Christian woman - Aasia - who had committed blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed," the letter states.
It claims Qadri had shown his love for the Prophet "by sending a blasphemer to Hell".
"The President has got a good opportunity to ensure his place in Heaven by granting pardon to Qadri as God will be very happy with him (Zardari) for pardoning a faithful Muslim by using his discretionary powers," the letter says.
The clerics asked the President not to bow down under any foreign pressure and to win the hearts of Muslims by granting clemency to Qadri.
Among the prominent clerics who have signed the letter are Hanif Tayyab, Allama Fazeel Qasmi, Allama Sharif Rizvi, Mufti Haseeb Qadri and Allama Sarfraz Qadri.
A large number of people, including lawyers, had commended Qadri`s act and held demonstrations in his favour across the country.
Later, the Islamabad High Court stayed his execution. The case is still pending in the High Court.
Former Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif, a close associate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, voluntarily become Qadri`s counsel. He too has sought clemency for Qadri from the President.