Lahore: Pakistan`s radical religious parties
rallied in support of the assassin of Punjab Governor Salmaan
Taseer after he was sentenced to death on Saturday, shouting slogans
against the judge who delivered the verdict and calling for
the release of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri.
The hundreds of supporters of Qadri, who was given the
death sentence by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi this
morning, marched in a rally from the Data Darbar shrine to
Governor`s House on Mall Road in Punjab`s provincial capital
Two more protests were held at Samnabad and Mozang areas
of the city.
Hardline religious parties have warned the government
that it will not be easy to carry out Qadri`s death sentence.
Qadri, who was part of Taseer`s security detail when he
gunned down the Governor in January, can appeal against the
death sentence within a week.
The protest on Mall Road, one of the main thoroughfares
of Lahore, clogged traffic and caused several traffic snarls.
An ailing man from Nankana Sahib died on the road as the
ambulance could not reach a hospital due to the traffic jam.
The protest on Mall Road was led by the Sunni Tehrik
while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and a group named "Lovers of
Qadri" held demonstrations in Mozang and Samnabad.
Unconfirmed reports said the Tahaffuz-e-Namus Risalat
Mahaz announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for anyone who killed
the judge who convicted Qadri.
The protesters burnt tyres and forced traders to shut
their shops. Carrying batons and sticks, they shouted slogans
against the judge and the government.
A large police contingent was deployed in Lahore`s Mall
Road, the centre of the protests by Pakistan`s radical
religious parties, to prevent any untoward incident.
At one stage, authorities briefly switched off street
lights in the area to thwart the protest, which continued till
late in the night though the number of demonstrators had
In a statement, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Liaqat
Baloch sought to defend the action of Qadri, who had gunned
down Taseer for criticising the controversial blasphemy law.
"Salman Taseer had himself invited death by issuing
blasphemous statements and Mumtaz Qadri did not deserve death
in this case," Baloch said.
Commenting on the death sentence given to Qadri, Baloch
said, "Mr Taseer had belittled the love of our people for the
Holy Prophet by holding a joint press conference with the
blasphemer woman and promising her clemency, which sparked the
religious sentiments of the accused and prompted him to take
the extreme step."
Before his death, Taseer had defended a Christian woman
who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy law for
allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
Baloch further said that though Qadri had made a
confessional statement, the authorities should consider
whether his execution would help improve the situation or
deepen the religious sentiments of Muslims.
He claimed that the "execution of the death sentence will
not be an easy step".
Leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam too warned the
government against executing the death sentence. They said the
government would fall if it dared to execute the sentence.
A spokesman for the Pakistan People`s Party, which
heads a coalition at the Centre and to which Taseer belonged,
welcomed the verdict.
"Qadri deserved the death sentence as he had killed
Taseer and later confessed to his crime," he said.