Pakistan Security Brief
Assassinated Governor Salman Taseer buried in Lahore amid tight security, Clinton calls Taseer’s death ‘great loss’, Islamist parties warn against mourning Taseer’s killing; investigation into assassin ongoing, killer ‘informed fellow officers’ of plan beforehand, was previously designated security risk; assassination deepens political crisis; Taliban chop off hand of “thief” in Orakzai.
Governor’s Assassination and Fallout
The Governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was laid to rest today amid tight security a day after he was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards for criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The funeral was attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and up to 6,000 other mourners in Lahore, the provincial capital. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made a statement on Tuesday calling Taseer’s death “a great loss.” Sherry Rehman, a legislator from the same party as Taseer, and the author of a bill seeking to repeal the blasphemy law, said that Taseer’s death “represents a terrible loss to the progressive forces in Pakistan. ”The funeral was not free of protest, and 500 religious scholars from the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, normally considered a moderate religious school, threatened mourners, saying “There should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy." The Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s main political parties, also declared that Taseer’s assassination was “justified.”
The investigation into Governor Taseer’s assassination is ongoing. According to autopsy reports, Taseer was struck in the back by over 25 bullets, including a fatal wound to his neck. More information has emerged on Taseer’s assassin, Mumtaz Hussan Qadri, the Elite Force police commando assigned to Taseer’s protective detail. According to investigators and to Qadri’s own confessions, Qadri began planning the assassination four days ago, when he first learnt that he would be attached to the governor’s detail. Qadri also disclosed that he had informed his fellow officers of his plan prior to taking action, and had asked them not to fire upon him as he would surrender himself after carrying out the hit. After killing Taseer, Qadri was arrested unharmed. Other members of the security detail have also been taken into police custody and investigators are working to determine if Qadri acted alone or with the backing of additional groups or actors. According to the police’s Special Branch, Qadri and ten other security personnel had previously been designated as security risks for VVIP (very very important person) details due to their leanings towards religious extremism. A spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban called reporters on Tuesday to claim responsibility for carrying out the assassination, but there is no evidence yet to suggest the killer was linked to the Taliban.
The death of such a senior member of Prime Minister Gilani’s own Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is likely to deepen the current parliamentary crisis caused by the defection of senior partners in the ruling coalition. The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has extended its deadline for the PPP to accede to its demands “because of the assassination,” but PPP negotiations seeking an alliance with another opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), in order to survive a possible vote of no-confidence also failed on Wednesday. The PML-Q chief, Chaudry Shujaat, called the government a “sinking boat.” The government is reportedly considering acceding to some of the PML-N’s demands, including a partial withdrawal of a recent nine percent hike in fuel prices.
On Wednesday, militants belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) cut off the hand of a man “convicted of theft” by a Taliban Sharia court in Orakzai agency of Pakistan’s tribal region. The sentence was carried out in Mamuzai, a town in upper Orakzai that continues to lie outside the control of the Pakistani military. This is the second such instance of dismemberment this week: on Monday TTP militants in Orakzai cut off the hand of another tribesman who was also “convicted of theft.”
Journalism in Pakistan
According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan was the most dangerous country for journalists in 2010. The report stated that of 44 journalists killed last year, eight died in Pakistan. The majority of those killed died when caught in bomb attacks or in deadly cross-fires.
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“Clintin says slain Pakistan governor ‘great loss’,” AFP, January 5, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/05/clinton-says-slain-pakistan-governor-great-loss.html
“Big loss to progressive forces, says Sherry,” Dawn News, January 5, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/05/big-loss-to-progressive-forces-says-sherry-2.html
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“Bullet in Taseer’s neck proves fatal: autopsy report,” Geo News, January 5, 2011. Available at http://www.geo.tv/1-5-2011/76824.htm
“TTP claims responsibility,” Frontier Post, January 5, 2011. Available at http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ts&nid=1645&ad=05-01-2011
“Govt may withdraw part of oil rates hike,” Dawn News, January 4, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/04/govt-may-withdraw-part-of-oil-rates-hike.html