Islamabad: In Pakistan’s tryst with terrorism, Salman Taseer, Governor of country’s largest province Punjab, was killed by his own security guard near a coffee shop in Koshar Market in the heart of Islamabad on Tuesday. Taseer was a close aide of Pakistani President Asif Zardari. This was the first brazen political assassination since the gunning down of Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Taseer, 66, was getting into his car when the guard from Punjab Police`s Elite Force shot him with an assault rifle pumping more than 25 bullets at close range. The Governor was rushed to Polyclinic Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, his spokesman Farrukh Shah said. Doctors made an unsuccessful attempt to revive him before declaring him dead.
The guard who is believed to have shot him is named Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. He has surrendered before the police and confessed to his crime. Qadri joined the Punjab Constabulary in 2003 and was deputed to an Elite Force platoon in 2008. He had been part of the Governor’s security detail on several occasions in the recent past.
“I killed the Governor because he termed the blasphemy law as Kala Kanoon (black law),” Malik Mumtaz said to the police.
The confession is in line with theory that the assassination came due to Taseer’s liberal outlook. It is believed that Salman Taseer had indeed termed blasphemy laws as a black law, thereby offending hardliners.
He had also assured his support to a minority religion woman who had been arrested under the draconian blasphemy law.
Reacting to the news, Pakistan Interior Minter Rehman Malik said, “We have lost a good administrator.”
Salman Taseer’s friend Dr Sharfuddin added, “These are same people who had killed Benazir Bhutto and are trying to turn Pakistan into Afghanistan. And these are terrorists in the garb of Islamists.”
The Interior Minister set up a joint investigation team led by a senior police official to probe the assassination. The team will include representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau.
"We want to ascertain whether it was an individual act or someone got him to kill (the Governor)," Malik said.
The entire area has been cordoned off. The entire security convoy has been detained.
The police has taken note of the eyewitness’ account.
Taseer is survived by wife Amna and their six children. It may noted that Salman Taseer is the former husband of prominent Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and father of author Aatish Taseer.
Observers said Taseer`s death marked a setback for a liberal Pakistan as he often spoken out for women and religious minorities.
The assassination also reflected the deep divide in society over an emotional issue like the blasphemy law, they said.
The government announced three days of mourning and said Taseer would be given a state funeral.
The killing rattled a country already plagued by political crisis and a surge in militancy. The Pakistani government under Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is battling hard to garner support after it was reduced to a minority with the MQM pulling out.
With PTI inputs