Pakistan governor opposing blasphemy law assassinated

[JURIST] The governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot and killed Tuesday by one of his own security guards, apparently because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law [text; JURIST news archive]. Taseer, a senior member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [official website], was shot while getting into his car at Islamabad's Kohsar Market and died later at a hospital. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the guard immediately surrendered to police and confessed to shooting Taseer because he had spoken against the blasphemy law. Controversy surrounding Pakistan's blasphemy law has recently been reignited over the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] during an argument with other women in her village last year. Tasseer had spoken in Bibi's defense. This is the most high-profile assassination in Pakistan since the 2007 assassination of former prime minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive].

The blasphemy laws were introduced in 1986 as a way of protecting Muslim beliefs from insults. In response to repeated calls for repeal, Pakistani Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti [official profile] has said the laws may be amended to prevent misuse, but they will not be repealed. Advocacy groups such as Human Rights Watch [JURIST report], as well as LHC advocate Saroop Ijaz [JURIST op-ed] have called for the laws to be repealed. In February, Bhatti told the Agence France-Presse that he has been speaking to various political parties [JURIST report] in Pakistan and that his government is committed to doing away with laws [AFP report] that are discriminatory to minorities. Bhatti made the comments at an interview with the AFP in Washington, DC, where he met with various lawmakers and officials during the National Prayer Breakfast. Bhatti discussed a proposed change in the law that would force judges to investigate blasphemy cases before they are docketed.

 

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