Pakistan tensions high ahead of Islamist assassin’s funeral


RAWALPINDI: Hundreds of supporters of a Pakistani Islamist executed for gunning down a liberal governor gathered for his funeral Tuesday, sparking fears of violence, as police and troops threw a tight cordon around flashpoints. Thousands of police were deployed at main junctions and sensitive buildings in the capital Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, officials said, including along the route set to be taken by Mumtaz Qadri’s funeral procession. Roads around Qadri’s home in Rawalpindi remained open, however. An AFP reporter there said up to 800 men and women had gathered as the body was placed in an ambulance to be taken to the funeral, with no security forces in sight. Qadri, a police bodyguard to Salman Taseer, shot the liberal Punjab governor 28 times at an Islamabad market in 2011. He said he was angry at the politician’s calls to reform the blasphemy law. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the Islamic republic, and Qadri was hailed as a hero by many conservatives eager to drown out calls to soften the legislation. Critics say the law — which carries the death penalty — is largely misused, with hundreds languishing in jails under false charges. Analyst Hasan Askari has said that Islamabad, in deciding to proceed with the execution, had weighed the danger.



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