LAWYERS showered the suspected killer of a prominent Pakistani governor with rose petals when he arrived Wednesday for his first court appearance.
Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, 26, was remanded in custody in Islamabad court a day after he allegedly sprayed automatic gunfire at Salman Taseer while he was on duty as a bodyguard for the Punjab province governor.
The lawyers who tossed handfuls of rose petals over him were not involved in the case. Several government officials and Police personnel also joined and greeted Mumtaz Qadri.
Majority of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and Islamic groups praised the assassination of the outspoken opponent of laws that order death for those who insult Islam. A rowdy crowd slapped the accused on the back and kissed his cheek as he was escorted inside.
As Qadri left the court, a crowd of about 200 sympathizers chanted "death is acceptable for Muhammad's slave." The suspect stood at the back door of an armoured police van with a flower necklace given to him by an admirer and repeatedly yelled "God is great."
More than 500 Ulema and scholars from the group Jamat Ahle Sunnat said no one should pray or express regret for the killing of the governor. The group representing Pakistan's majority Barelvi sect, which follows a brand of Islam considered moderate, also issued a veiled threat to other opponents of the blasphemy laws.
"The supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed blasphemy," the group warned in a statement, adding politicians, the media and others should learn "a lesson from the exemplary death."
Jamat leader Maulana Shah Turabul Haq Qadri paid "glorious tribute to the murderer ... for his courage, bravery and religious honour and integrity."
Mumtaz Qadri told interrogators Tuesday that he shot the liberal Taseer multiple times because of the politician's vocal opposition to the harsh blasphemy laws. Qadri is a name commonly adopted by devout men of the Barelvi sect. This name is adopted from Abdul Qadir Gilani (1077–1166 AD) a Sufi Sheikh, most popularly known as "Ghaus-e Azam" born in the Persian Province of Gilan (Iran).
Qadri is accused of pumping more than 20 rounds from his assault rifle into Taseer's back on an Islamabad street on Tuesday. The commando, who had been assigned to protect him, has yet to be charged with a crime.
The Jamaat e Islami chief, representing hundreds of thousands of members, workers and sympathisers, Syed Munawar Hasan, has said that the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s murder was the net result of obstructing the process of the Blasphemy (of the Holy Prophet) Law and Salman Taseer was himself responsible for his killing.
He said that Salman Taseer, despite occupying a high government office, openly violated the Blasphemy Law and continued to support a woman convicted of blasphemy. He met the culprit in jail and later at a press conference, announced that he would get her clemency from the President. This announcement was made at a time when the lower court judgment was subject to appeal before the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Syed Munawar Hasan said that Salman Taseer had persistently ignored the sentiments of the 170 million Pakistanis by terming the Blasphemy Law as a Black law and ridiculing the Ulema. During all this time, the leadership of the Tahafuz e Namoos e Risilat Mahaz had been demanding of the government to take notice of Salman Taseer’ statements and his flouting the court decisions. It had also called for his removal from his office but the rulers did not pay heed to these demands.
The JI chief said, the Muslims’ love and attachment for the Holy Prophet( pbuh) was natural and unlimited and any Muslim worth the name could not tolerate blasphemy of the Prophet (pbuh), as had been proved by this incident.
The JI chief said that the religious forces wanted protection of the Blasphemy Law so that the whole matter was decided by the courts and such incidents could be avoided.
Pleads to be arrested alive
A senior police official who interrogated Qadri said he was determined to stand by his confession that he was proud to kill a blasphemer.
The official alleged Qadri had looked for a chance to kill the governor since joining his security squad on Tuesday morning, but did not get the opportunity at the presidential or Senate buildings.
His chance came when the squad was called to escort Taseer from a restaurant on Tuesday afternoon, the official said.
After the attack, Qadri threw his weapon down and put up his hands up when one of his colleagues aimed at him, pleading to be arrested alive, the official said.
In the northwest city of Peshawar, more than 40 students rallied for Qadri's release.
"All of us students are proud of him, of what Mumtaz did," protester Faisal Khan said.
Taseer, 66, was a senior member of the ruling party and close ally of U.S.-backed President Asif Ali Zardari. He is the highest-profile political figure to be assassinated since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was slain three years ago.
An outspoken moderate in a country increasingly beset by zealotry, his death was a reminder of the growing danger to those in Pakistan who dare to challenge Islamist extremists.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other senior ruling party officials joined up to 6,000 mourners who gathered under tight security to pay silent homage to him at the funeral at his official residence in the eastern city of Lahore.
His assassination added to the turmoil in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the government is on the verge of collapse and Islamic militancy is on the rise.
Khusro Pervez, the commissioner of Lahore, said city authorities had deployed additional police to keep the peace before and after the funeral. Thousands of police guarded the governor's residence and other key sites.
The governor's residence has been the scene of angry street protests in recent weeks against Taseer's call to repeal blasphemy laws that order death for anyone convicted of insulting Islam and his support for a woman sentenced to die for allegedly insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
AGENCIES, Pakistan News Papers