Pak`s Guv Taseer laid to rest in Pak; 23 held over his killing
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 18:59
Islamabad: Pakistani investigators on Wednesday probed the possibility of a larger conspiracy behind the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his bodyguard as they arrested 23 people.

In Lahore, Taseer, 66, was laid to rest with full state honours at the Cavalry Ground graveyard, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other top leaders paying homage.

President Asif Ali Zardari did not attend the funeral due to security reasons, PPP leaders said.

Two officials, who assigned Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the policeman responsible for gunning down Taseer in Islamabad yesterday, to the Governor's security detail were arrested along with eight more personnel of the Elite Force following the assassination, local media reported.

Three more policemen from Rawalpindi, including an officer, were arrested this morning, as part of the probe.

Investigators were trying to ascertain whether Qadri was part of a larger conspiracy or acted on his own.

Police also took into custody Qadri's five brothers and father yesterday and three more of his relatives, who were apparently aware of his plan to kill the outspoken Governor, were arrested today.

Separately, they arrested a man who had announced a Rs 20 million prize for anyone who killed Taseer for opposing the country's blasphemy law. Sardar Ebaad Dogar of Khangarh near Multan was arrested yesterday shortly after Taseer was gunned down.

Qadri, 26, was removed from the Special Branch for being a "security risk" and had told several of his colleagues of his plan to kill Taseer for opposing the blasphemy law, 'Geo News' reported.

He had told his colleagues that if he killed the Governor, he should be arrested alive as he would lay down his weapon after firing and surrender.

The channel quoted unnamed sources as saying that Rawalpindi's former regional police chief Nasir Khan Durrani had noted in a file that Qadri and 10 other personnel had hardline religious or extremist leanings.

Durrani noted in the file that Qadri and the others should not be assigned to provide security to VIPs.

Despite this alert, Qadri was deputed to guard Taseer on at least five occasions in the past two years, the channel reported. Qadri joined the Punjab Constabulary in 2003 and was deputed in 2008 to the Elite Force, an anti-terrorism unit that guards VIPs.

A police officer told the Dawn newspaper that Taseer's assassin was deployed to guard Prime Minister Gilani on at least one occasion.

Qadri's name was not on the duty roster of policemen assigned to guard the Governor till Monday night.

His name was included at his own request yesterday morning, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media.

Investigators also plan to question the officials who recruited Qadri in the Elite Force.

Qadri laid down his assault rifle and surrendered moments after he shot dead Taseer at the posh Kohsar Market in the heart of Islamabad yesterday.

Chilling footage aired on a news channel showed a smiling Qadri saying: "He got the death sentence for insulting the Prophet."

The funeral prayer for Taseer at the Governor's House in Lahore, scheduled for 1 pm local time, was delayed by almost an hour as several clerics reportedly refused to lead it following a call by an influential Islamic body.

Afzal Chishti, a leader of the ulema (clerics) wing of the ruling PPP, led the 'namaz-e-janaza' or funeral prayer.

The imam of Lahore's Shahi Masjid and the cleric of the mosque at Governor's House refused to lead the prayer, sources said.

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan, a grouping of scholars, had yesterday asked clerics not to lead Taseer's funeral prayer.

Among those present at the funeral prayer were Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, leaders of other political parties and PPP workers.

Leaders of the main opposition PML-N, which is ruling the province of Punjab, and religious parties were conspicuous by their absence at the funeral.

Thousands of angry PPP workers, who had gathered at the Governor's House, shouted slogans against religious parties and the PML-N.


First Published: Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 18:59

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