Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pakistan In Turmoil Once Again

A day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani suffered a major setback after one of the parties left the ruling coalition short of the necessary votes in Parliament and could raise a vote of no confidence at any time, an outspoken ally to the President Zardari was assassinated by one of his security guards at a market. The assassination was sparked by his opposition to a death sentence handed down against a woman for blasphemy.
The governor of Pakistan's largest province was assassinated Tuesday at a genteel market in the nation's capital--allegedly by one of his own security guards, angered by the governor's support of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Police said Salman Taseer- a sharp-tongued supporter of embattled President Asif Ali Zardari and an outspoken critic of religious extremists - was shot multiple times at the shopping plaza, which is near his home in Islamabad and is frequented by foreigners.

A Pakistani news station quoted a witness who said he saw a security guard get out of Taseer's vehicle, raise a Kalishnikov rifle and fire through the window of the vehicle.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said one of the governor's guards surrendered to police after the shooting, and told them he was angered by Taseer's recent public endorsement of a pardon for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

That position had earned Taseer threats from Islamist parties, who held a strike last week against proposed changes to the nation's controversial anti-blasphemy laws. Taseer stood by his stance, posting on Dec. 30 on his Twitter account: "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing."
Islamists have been gunning for Taseer for months now, calling him an apostate over his stance on blasphemy laws and because he was not kowtowing to the Islamist line.

None of this is especially helpful to the ongoing counterterrorism efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda that operate from Pakistan's frontier provinces that are loosely governed from Islamabad.

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