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Assassination of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer rocks Islamabad

Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province, was seen widely as one of the country's most important political figures.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / January 4, 2011

In this Nov. 20, 2010, file photo, Salman Taseer (r.), the governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province, listens to Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi (l.) at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore, Pakistan. Taseer was assassinated on Tuesday, Jan. 4, in the Pakistani capital by one of his guards apparently because he had spoken out against the country's controversial blasphemy laws, officials said.



Lahore, Pakistan

The governor of Pakistan’s most populous and powerful province, Punjab, was assassinated Tuesday in the country's capital, Islamabad.

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Salman Taseer was shot by a member of his personal security detail while in Kohsar Market, a posh area of the capital popular among foreigners, authorities say.

"[His security guard] confessed that he killed the governor himself because he had called the blasphemy law a black law," said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Mr. Taseer drew anger from Islamists for his outspoken opposition to the country's blasphemy laws, which have recently led to a Christian woman being sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad. The killing comes at a time of political crisis for the country, as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government, in which Taseer was a key leader, struggles to hold on to power after a key coalition partner quit the government Monday.

A wave of sympathy?

The killing of Taseer was the second major political assassination in recent years following the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. Her death sent the nation into convulsions and sparked a wave of sympathy that political experts believe helped the PPP ascend to power in the 2008 elections.

A similar wave of sympathy this time around could create a “cooling period” among Pakistan’s opposition parties, which are considering tabling a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, and give the government breathing room, according to a leading Pakistani political analyst who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivities of commenting on the issue at this time.

The killing may also galvanize the PPP base and liberal opponents to militancy.

A supporter of liberal values

To his supporters, Taseer's flamboyant personal life, as well as his outspoken opposition to the Taliban and the country's blasphemy laws, represented the liberal values of the PPP. The Daily Times newspaper, which he owned, regularly highlights issues of concern to women and the country's religious minorities.


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