03/01/2016, 09.23
PAKISTAN
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High alert ahead of Mumtaz Qadri’s funeral. Fears for Asia Bibi’s life

by Jibran Khan

The funeral will take place in the coming hours in Rawalpindi. Millions of Islamic fanatics have already gathered and the same number is expected in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar at other simultaneous funeral ceremonies. Raised security measures around Asia Bibi, who had been defended by Governor Salman Taseer. The family of the woman hid in a secret location.

 

Rawalpindi (AsiaNews) - The security forces are on high alert across Pakistan for the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of the former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was executed yesterday in a Rawalpindi jail.

The funeral ceremony will take place in the coming hours, and there are fears of the outbreak of violence by Islamic extremists who have always lauded Qadri as a "national hero." The authorities have also raised security measures around Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet, whom Taseer had championed contesting the blasphemy laws.

Qadri was hanged yesterday in Adiala jail, despite heavy pressures that fundamentalists had exercised on President Mamnoon Hussain, threatening retaliation if he was not pardoned. The pardon was not granted, as confirmed yesterday to AsiaNews by some Catholic voices, emphasizing Hussain’s "courageous" decision.

Immediately after Qadri’s execution Islamic religious parties took to the streets and blocked several cities. In Rawalpindi millions of people have gathered and the same number are expected in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Jhnag, which will host simultaneous funeral ceremonies with the actual funeral at Liquat Bagh.

The rangers have been deployed to control the peace. Yesterday they arrested several Islamic leaders and sympathizers of the murderer of the former governor. Authorities have shut schools, markets, universities and offices, for fear of possible clashes.

The greatest concern, however, is for the safety of Asia Bibi. Extremist groups have placed a bounty on her head and the Islamic parties have called for her death. Her family has been hidden in a secret location.

Qadri had been held since January 2011, when he killed governor Taseer as he was leaving a restaurant in Islamabad, for his positions against the blasphemy law, which provides for life imprisonment or the death sentence for those who desecrate the Koran or desecrate the name of the prophet Muhammad.

In October of that year he was sentenced to death at first instance by the Pakistani anti-terrorism court. In February 2015 the High Court in Islamabad confirmed the decision, arguing that "nothing can justify the murder of the victim." His lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which in October 2015 rejected their request for acquittal.

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