[JURIST] Pakistani authorities on Monday prepared for civil unrest after the execution of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi. Qadri is the killer of a former Pakistani governor of the Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, who campaigned for changes to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which Taseer alleged were used to persecute religious minorities [NYT report]. Last March Pakistan’s Islamabad High court affirmed Qadri’s death sentence [JURIST report] for the murder of Taseer in 2011. Qadri had served as Taseer’s bodyguard at the time of the murder. Qadri later claimed it was his religious duty to kill the former governor who publicly criticized the Pakistani blasphemy laws and supported liberal reforms. Authorities feared protests and potential violence after the execution because Qadri had gained the status of a political hero for some Islamist groups who believe that the mere suggestion of political reform should amount to a capital crime. After Qadri’s execution, security forces were put on high alert [BBC report] and there were riot police present around Qadri’s residence.
Pakistan has faced international scrutiny in recent years for its enforcement of blasphemy laws [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for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti has said that the laws may be amended to prevent misuse, but they will not be repealed.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such as Human Rights Watch [JURIST report], as well as Pakistani advocate Saroop Ijaz have argued the laws should be repealed [JURIST op-ed].