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Mumtaz Qadri admits killing Governor
Islamabad, Jan 10 (Agencies):
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Published on 11 Jan. 2011 12:19 AM IST
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The bodyguard accused of shooting Pakistani governor Salman Taseer has confessed in court to the killing.
Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri told the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi that he had acted alone in the attack.
He was whisked into court a day earlier than scheduled to prevent supporters showing up, correspondents say. It comes a day after a huge protest in Karachi against proposed amendments - backed by the slain Punjab governor - to the strict blasphemy law.
After his arrest following last Tuesday’s assassination in Islamabad, Qadri said he had been angered by Mr Taseer’s backing for reforms to the law.
There has been speculation that other guards in the governor’s security detail agreed with Qadri to turn a blind eye to the attack.
Police have been investigating how he was able to empty two magazines of a sub-machine gun at the governor without being challenged by colleagues.
In Monday morning’s court appearance, which was a day earlier than scheduled, Qadri said in a written statement he had acted alone.
At his first court appearance in Islamabad last week, he was showered with rose petals by sympathisers, including a number of lawyers.
Protesters at a huge rally in Karachi on Sunday held placards supporting Qadri The blasphemy law returned to the spotlight in November when a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She denies the charge.
Governor Taseer had angered hardline clerics by visiting the mother of five in jail, and by supporting proposed reforms to the legislation.
A private member’s bill which seeks to remove the law’s mandatory death sentence and lessen the likelihood of miscarriages of justice has provoked a wave of conservative fury.
In a news conference on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reiterated the government did not plan to amend the law.
But Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti said the blasphemy law should be amended to avoid its misuse.
Earlier that day 50,000 protesters marched in the southern city of Karachi against the proposed reforms.
The rally was attended by all major Muslim groups and sects in the city, including moderates and conservatives.
Many of the demonstrators held banners in support of Qadri.
Although no-one convicted under the blasphemy law has ever been executed, more than 30 accused have been killed by lynch mobs.
Pope asks Pak to scrap blasphemy law

Vatican City, Jan 10 (AFP): Pope Benedict XVI today called on Pakistan to scrap a blasphemy law after the murder of the governor of Punjab, saying the legislation was a pretext for “acts of injustice and violence”.
“I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law,” he said.
“The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction.”
The pope, who was speaking at a traditional New Year’s meeting with foreign ambassadors to the Vatican, said the anti-blasphemy legislation was an example of “norms prejudicing the right to religious freedom.”
More than 50,000 people rallied in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Sunday against the controversial reform of the blasphemy law that was behind the shooting of Punjab governor Salman Taseer last week.
Taseer had called for reform of the blasphemy law that was recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death. But his outspoken liberal stance offended the country’s increasingly powerful conservative religious base.
Controversy over the law flared when former information minister Sherry Rehman tabled a bill in November calling for an end the death penalty for blasphemy, after Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi was sentenced to hang.

 
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