Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province and a senior politician in the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, was assassinated today by his bodyguard. Reports indicate that Taseer was assassinated for his opposition to Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws, which target non-Muslims for perceived slights to Islam. From Dawn:
Interior Minister Rahman Malik told reporters that the suspect in the case had surrendered to police and told them he killed Taseer because “the governor described the blasphemy laws as a black law.”
Taseer was believed to be meeting someone for a meal, Malik said. Other members of his security detail were being questioned, Malik said.
The security for Taseer was provided by the Punjab government.
“We will see whether it was an individual act or someone had asked him” to do it, Malik said of the attacker.
Reuters reports that Taseer was killed near the edge of a shopping center “which is popular among foreigners in Islamabad,” and that his assassin bodyguard immediately surrendered:
A witness at the scene said Taseer was stepping out of his car at a shopping area when he was shot.
“The governor fell down and the man who fired at him threw down his gun and raised both hands,” said the witness, Ali Imran.
The shooting left blood stains on a parking area on the edge of the Kohsar shopping center, which is popular among foreigners in Islamabad.
The assassination by Taseer’s bodyguard appears to have been timed to achieve maximum shock value; the choice of the location of the killing (perhaps to get some foreign witnesses) coupled with his surrender and immediate statement seem to support this.
Taseer’s assassination takes place as Pakistan is experiencing political chaos. Two political parties have left the PPP’s ruling coalition government, making the PPP a minority government easily blackmailed with the threats of a no contest vote and new elections. Political violence and assassinations between the MQM and the ANP continue in Karachi on a daily basis. The government is embattled over plans to raise taxes and deal with internally displaced people who have fled military operations against the Taliban and last year’s devastating floods. In addition, the government is under US and international pressure to tackle the Taliban and the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military, the real power in Pakistan, has resisted such pressures.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.