Mumtaz Qadri, sentenced to death for killing Taseer
So he's going to swing – perhaps. On Saturday a Pakistani judge sentenced Mumtaz Qadri, the police bodyguard who assassinated the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, to death by hanging. The young policeman smiled and thanked God. "My dream has come true," he reportedly said.
It was a predictably theatrical turn from Qadri, a former nobody who murdered Taseer in cowardly fashion – shooting the governor 27 times in the back – and who has since revelled in the notoriety of his blood-stained celebrity. Equally predictable, alas, was the reaction on the streets outside.
Close to the courtroom in Rawalpindi, angry young men attacked a monument to the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, defacing her image on the spot where she died in a suicide bombing in 2007. Down in Lahore, turbaned men with long sticks surged through the ancient Anarkali bazaar, thrashing traders who refused to shutter their shops in sympathy for Qadri.
Meanwhile the clerics engineering the protests – old men with soft palms and tinder-dry beards – issued po-faced statements decrying the sentence. Qadri was a good Muslim, they insisted, and Taseer got what he deserved. The governor had offended them by advocating reforms toPakistan's antiquated blasphemy laws. In particularly they hated him for defending Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five sentenced to death under those laws last November. He deserved to die, they said.