The governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot and killed by a member of his own security force in Islamabad’s Khosar market. A senior member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Taseer faced threats from religious fundamentalists following his outspoken petitioning against the country’s blasphemy law and his efforts to have Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, pardoned after being sentenced to death under the law. The suspect in the shooting, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, was quoted on Pakistan’s Dunya television saying, “Salman Taseer is a blasphemer and this is punishment for a blasphemer.” The assassination of Taseer, one of Pakistan’s most important political figures and a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, could have serious consequences. The Pakistani government, already plunged in political crisis, is in the midst of difficult negotiations with opposition parties in an effort to establish a parliamentary majority. Taseer’s killing has the potential to seriously hinder any such progress.
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