Pakistan braces for Qadri funeral

Supporters of Islamic political party Jamat-e-Islami shout slogans during a protest after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, an ex-police guard who had in January 2011 killed a former governor for opposing the country's blasphemy laws, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 29 February 2016.Image copyright

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Protests took place on Monday in Peshawar and other Pakistani cities

Pakistan is bracing for further protests at the funeral of the former bodyguard who killed Punjab’s governor, in a case that shocked the country.

Authorities have deployed heavy security in Rawalpindi where thousands are expected to mourn Mumtaz Qadri.

Qadri was hailed as a hero by Islamists after killing Salman Taseer in 2011 over his opposition to blasphemy laws.

His execution on Monday prompted thousands of protesters to take to the streets across Pakistan.

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Mumtaz Qadri was hailed as a hero by some Islamist groups

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

Qadri’s supporters staged mostly peaceful rallies in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and also blocked highways into Islamabad. Demonstrators had burned tyres and chanted slogans.

‘Heightened security’ – Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

Islamabad is unusually quiet this morning. Schools are shut, most markets are likely to remain closed, and lawyers are observing a strike. Authorities have placed shipping containers on roads to seal the Red Zone, where government buildings are located.

Neighbouring Rawalpindi, where the burial will take place, is largely off-limits for commuters, especially areas around the venue.

There is heightened security in all major cities and towns. Authorities in Karachi have banned pillion riding on motorbikes until Friday to prevent drive-by attacks.

Large crowds are expected to pour in for the funeral. The tempo is being built up by religious groups, including the mainstream Jamaat-e-Islami party which termed Monday, the day of Qadri’s hanging, as the “black day” and announced daily protests until Friday.

But fear of violence is not as acute as one would have expected some years ago. Monday’s protests did not attract large crowds, and protesters did not show a willingness to take on the security personnel manning the cordons.

Also, Pakistan’s often cacophonic TV news channels have been uncharacteristically restrained, apparently following firm official advice. This has kept public anxiety at a lower level.

Qadri was executed at 04:30 local time (23:30 GMT) at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi on Monday.

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Qadri’s relatives and supporters received his body on Monday and prepared it for the funeral

He had trained as an elite police commando and was assigned to Salman Taseer as his bodyguard. Qadri shot the politician at an Islamabad market in January 2011, and was sentenced to death later that year.

He claimed it was his religious duty to kill the minister, who was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and supported liberal reforms.

Pakistan has seen Islamist groups grow in influence in recent years and several high profile blasphemy cases.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan and critics argue that blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores and unfairly target minorities.

Who was Salman Taseer?

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  • The 2011 murder of Salman Taseer, who was the governor of Punjab, was one of Pakistan’s most high-profile assassinations.
  • He was one of the most prominent liberal politicians in the country and a close associate of Asif Ali Zardari, who was then the president.
  • Known to be an outspoken critic of the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, arguing that they discriminated against religious minorities, and sought liberal reforms.
  • He had called for a pardon for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Read more: Death of a liberal

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