Pak`s Guv Taseer laid to rest in Pak; 23 held over his killing

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 5, 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.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 18:59

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