Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court
on Saturday handed down death sentence to the police guard who
assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for calling for
changes in the country`s controversial blasphemy law.
Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the policeman who gunned
down Taseer outside a restaurant in the heart of Islamabad on
January 4, was awarded two death sentences on two counts of
murder and terrorism by Judge Parvez Ali Shah during in-camera
proceedings at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, state-run PTV
Qadri had confessed to killing Taseer shortly after the
He subsequently confessed to the crime on two more
occasions when a magistrate recorded his confessional
statement and when he was given a questionnaire by the
anti-terrorism court judge.
Special security arrangements were put in place at Adiala
Jail before today`s proceedings.
Roads leading to the prison were closed to the public and
private vehicles, and a large police contingent was deployed
in the area.
A high alert was sounded in the jail to thwart any
untoward incidents, officials said.
Dozens of Qadri`s supporters, carrying banners and
posters with the policeman`s photograph, gathered outside the
jail and shouted slogans.
It could not immediately be ascertained whether Qadri
planned to appeal the death sentence.
Despite confessing to the crime, Qadri had contended that
he killed Taseer as he was a `murtad` or apostate and had
allegedly committed blasphemy by seeking changes in the
During the trial, witnesses testified that Qadri had
specifically asked his superiors to include him in Taseer`s
security detail on the day of the assassination.
Qadri`s trial was held up for several weeks as no
prosecutor was willing to take on the case. During initial
court appearances, Qadri was championed by lawyers and
madrassa students, who hailed him as a "hero" and showered rose
petals on him.
Taseer, one of the most liberal leaders of the ruling
Pakistan People`s Party, had angered Islamic hardliners when
he called for changes in the blasphemy law and championed the
cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly
insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
Nearly two months after Taseer`s killing, Minority
Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, another vocal critic of the
blasphemy law, was gunned down by the Taliban near his
residence in Islamabad.