[JURIST] Pakistan’s Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, a former police guard respected within Pakistan for killing politician [BBC backgrounder] Salmaan Taseer over his support for a woman convicted of blasphemy. Taseer was governor of Punjar at the time of his death, and he was leaving a restaurant in January 2011 when he was shot and killed. Taseer had drawn ire from religious conservative groups when he took up the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammed. The next possible step for Qadri will be an appeal for a presidential pardon, which is unlikely to be granted. The upholding of Qadri’s death sentence [Guardian report] marks a significant moment in a country with a history of religious extremism.
Pakistan has faced international scrutiny in recent years for its enforcement of blasphemy laws [JURIST news archive]. In March a judge in Pakistan’s Lahore District and Sessions court [official website] sentenced Liaquat Ali to death [JURIST report] for blasphemy. Last October the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence [JURIST report] for Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. In July of last year a Pakistan court convicted and sentenced a man to death [JURIST report] for blasphemy after he was arrested in 2008 for writing blasphemous statements against Islam on walls.