A former policeman in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for the murder in January of one of the country’s most liberal regional governors, Salman Tasir, local television reported quoting official sources.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Pervez Ali Shah in a court hearing in the city of Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The policeman, Mumtaz Kadri, was working as a bodyguard for Tasir, governor of Punjab, but murdered him “in the name of Islam” because of the govenor’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The “defender of the faith” has instantly become a hero among Pakistan’s radical Islamic groups, who have demanded a pardon for the “killer of blasphemers.”
Local media have speculated that if the death sentence is carried out, it could spark a wave of protests under this Islamic slogan.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law was passed in the mid-1980’s when Pakistan was ruled by Genera Zia ul-Haq, who held staunch Islamic views. The law lays down strict punishments for any “injury to the religious feelings” of Muslims, including up to life in prison for desecrating the Koran, and death for slandering the Prophet Mohamed.
Liberals in Pakistan claim the law has been used to put pressure on religious minorities. Governor Tasir called for the law to be relaxed. Islamic radicals have campaigned against any revision of the law.