Moderate governor of Punjab province killed by his bodyguard
The governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by one of his bodyguards on Tuesday, reportedly for his opposition to blasphemy laws. Taseer, a moderate member of the main ruling party, was a vocal critic of Islamist militancy.
AFP - Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most politically important province Punjab, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in Islamabad on Tuesday, apparently for opposing blasphemy laws.
Taseer was one of the most moderate political voices in the main ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which this week slumped into a major political crisis when its junior coalition partner walked out of the federal government.
He was outspoken against the Taliban and other Islamist militants hunkered down in the country's northwest, and which have made increasing inroads into Punjab in recent years, and most recently against controversial blasphemy laws.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the killer was a member of Taseer's own security team, who quickly confessed to the crime and who had apparently worked for the governor on five or six previous occasions.
"He confessed that he killed the governor himself because he had called the blasphemy law a black law," Malik said.
"He has confessed his crime and surrendered his gun to police after the attack," he told reporters.
The brazen daylight shooting came as wealthy Pakistanis and expatriates were enjoying a late lunch or afternoon coffee in nearby cafes.
Spent cartridges littered the road outside Kohsar market in Islamabad's upmarket F6 sector, just a short distance from where Taseer kept a home, witnesses said.
Local administration chief Amir Ahmad Ali said Taseer died in hospital after being wounded in the shooting in F6.
"I was in the market. I heard the gunfire and hit the ground," said Shaukat, 28, a terrified labourer.
"Later on, while running for shelter I saw a man in uniform being grabbed by police. Later on, police officials said he was the attacker."
Police and anti-terror forces surround the area and the market closed after the attack. A silver Toyota car with a flat wheel was parked on one side. Blood was smeared on the road in two places, said an AFP reporter.
Taseer was a leading moderate voice in the PPP, which is facing a major political crisis since losing its parliamentary majority on Sunday.
Taseer made his money as a chartered accountant, setting up consultancy firms and a brokerage house, and with investments in telecommunications, the media, insurance and real estate before going into politics.
He served as minister for industry and production under former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from 2007 to 2008.
He was a long-time member of the Punjab provincial assembly and appointed governor by the PPP-led coalition government in 2008.