Islamabad: Hundreds of Facebook users have welcomed liberal Pakistani politician Salman Taseer’s killing as a strike against reformers of the country’s tight blasphemy laws.
The Punjab governor was shot on Tuesday by one of his guards, 26-year-old Mumtaz Qadri, who confessed to assassinating Taseer because of his vocal opposition to the blasphemy law that was recently used to sentence a Pakistani-Christian woman, Asia Bibi, to death.
Nearly 2,000 Facebook users joined one group on the social networking site praising Qadri, and dozens of “fans” joined other pages set up in Qadri’s honour in hours after the assassination took place.
All the pages had been removed by Wednesday, and Facebook was not immediately reachable for comment, the Dawn reports.
But other private account holders used their Facebook status updates to make comments such as: “We salute you Mumtaz Qadri,” “Thank God he (Taseer) is not alive (any) more” and praise for the attacker as “a soldier of Islam”.
In a sign of mainstream media opposition, Pakistan’s leading Urdu-language newspaper ‘Jang’ ran a front-page story declaring: “There should be no funeral for Salman Taseer and no condemnation for his death.”
“A supporter of a blasphemer is also a blasphemer,” said a sub-heading, reporting that 500 religious scholars and clerics had paid tribute to Qadri.
But voices also came out to denounce the gunman, and Facebook page named “I Hate Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri” had 70 “fans” with no comments or discussions.
The Facebook users who spoke out in Taseer’s support expressed sadness over the growing Islamisation of the country.
“Sad over Death of Tolerance in Pakistan. Governor Punjab killed by his ‘lunatic guard’,” said one man on his status.
“Pretext: Late Governor Salman Taseer was bold enough to stand-up against Blasphemy law… extensively used/abused against religious minorities,” he added.
“It is sad. I shiver thinking where we are heading and in which society my kids will live their lives,” said another.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Army Officers Club on Facebook has posted the killer’s video, titled: “Sher Jawan - Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri`s Interview”.
Analysts say that the assassination underscores how deeply religious extremism has penetrated Pakistan’s conservative society, with even the Internet-literate elite resorting to social networking site Facebook to rally support for the killer.