Islamabad: Christians across Pakistan on Sunday held memorial services for slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated by a police guard for defending a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.
Congregations offered special prayers for Taseer on the call of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance. Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, joined prayers at Fatima Church in Islamabad.
Special prayers were also offered for national integrity and prosperity of the country. The large gathering at Fatima Church showered flowers and lit candles at a shrine for Taseer as armed policemen stood guard outside.
Bhatti said the special congregations were arranged to promote inter-faith harmony, national integrity and religious harmony. Condemning the assassination of Taseer, Bhatti said the killer wanted to disrupt peace in the country.
"Taseer always tried to protect the rights of minorities," Bhatti said. He urged liberal, progressive and political forces to fight the forces who want to harm peace. Extremist elements want to destabilise Pakistan by creating anarchy, he added.
Bishop Alexander John Malik led a gathering at a cathedral. Praising the slain governor, Malik said: "He was a voice for the oppressed. We dedicate this day to him."
The Pakistan Masiha Millat Party, a Christian organisation, organised a candle-light vigil in memory of Taseer in Lahore. PMMP chief Aslam Pervez Sahotara and different Christian leaders participated in the ceremony held outside the Governor`s House.
People offered prayers for Taseer and his family. Speakers said Taseer`s martyrdom was a big sacrifice for the Christian community that will always be remembered.
Taseer had angered religious hardliners by defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year under the blasphemy law. He also called for the amendment of the law to prevent its misuse.