Hillary asked to refuse visas to Qadri`s supporters in Pak

Four US Congressmen have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to refuse visas to Pakistani nationals who praised the assassination of outspoken Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.

Last Updated: Jan 15, 2011, 00:47 AM IST

Islamabad: Four US Congressmen have asked
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to refuse visas to
Pakistani nationals who praised the assassination of outspoken
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and showed support for his
police guard Mumtaz Qadri who gunned him down.

In a letter sent to Clinton yesterday, Congressmen
Gary Ackerman, Steve Israel, Peter King and Michael McCaul
said "some of the most prominent clerics, journalists and
lawyers who have praised Taseer`s death and have demonstrated
support of his murderer, are people who frequently travel to
the US and hold American visas."

"We urge you to identify those Pakistani citizens that
have shown demonstrable support of the assassination of
Governor Taseer. We further request that visas not be issued
to such people and that applications for new visas from those
who have endorsed this heinous crime be denied," the letter
said.

Taseer was shot dead in Islamabad on January 4 by his
police guard Qadri, personnel of the Elite Force who said he
was angered by the Governor`s criticism of Pakistan`s
controversial blasphemy law.

Taseer had also angered religious hardliners by
defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last
year for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Following Taseer`s assassination, over 40,000 members of
radical groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, rallied in
Karachi on Sunday to express support for Qadri.

The rally was addressed by JuD leaders and Jamiat
Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who pledged to
defend Qadri in court.

Lawyers and members of radical groups showered rose
petals on Qadri when he was produced in courts in Islamabad
and Rawalpindi. Dozens of lawyers offered to defend him free
of charge.

The US Congressmen said in their letter that their
request for denial of visas to supporters of Qadri was "not
just a moral issue but also an issue of national security."

They said it was "shocking" that Taseer, a "strong
advocate for religious tolerance, pluralism and democracy,"
was "cut down by an assassin`s bullets who opposed changes to
statutes against religious minorities."

"This unspeakable tragedy has been compounded by the
public reaction of significant elements of Pakistan`s
clerical, journalistic and law community who have praised the
murderer and threatened the lives of other Pakistani officials
who refuse to comply with the terrorisation of Christians,
Ahmedis and women," the letter said.

The Congressmen also noted that Pakistan People`s
Party leader Sherry Rehman has been threatened for introducing
a bill in Parliament for changes to the blasphemy law.

"Further threats and violence are not the answer," the
letter said.

PTI