A member of the security detail for a government official in Pakistan is accused of gunning down Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, and analysts say the killing likely was because of Taseer’s advocacy for a Christian woman convicted under the nation’s controversial blasphemy laws.
Asia Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, was sentenced under Pakistan’s blasphemy law to death in November. Her case remains in the nation’s court system yet.
Now reports indicate security officer Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri allegedly shot the 66-year-old Taseer while he toured an Islamabad marketplace.
The DNA India report also says the clerics are urging the people not to participate in any prayers connected to the governor’s funeral service.
Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez calls the governor courageous and says as soon as he spoke out for Bibi’s pardon, Islamic law marked him for death.
“The fact that the governor very courageously took a public stand against the death penalty in the case of the Christian woman accused of blasphemy, made him a marked man the moment he spoke,” Lopez explained.
“In Islamic law, blasphemy and slander carry the death penalty automatically. Those crimes are not analogous to anything under Western law. When they talk about blasphemy or slander which is found in Islamic books of law, what they’re talking about is anything that is deemed by Muslims to be insulting the Quran, the Islamic law itself, to the prophet Muhammad and certainly to Allah,” Lopez explained further.
Listen to an interview with Lopez:
She said slander or blasphemy largely are a matter of perception to the Muslim involved in the individual case.
Lopez also said Taseer got himself into trouble when he spoke against Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
“Pakistan’s laws are in accordance with Shariah [Islamic law]. When he spoke out against those laws, in the case of the Christian woman, he knew already that he would be a marked man for doing that. That was the crime right there,” Lopez added.
She adds that the killer himself said the shooting was retribution according to Shariah.
“If I recall correctly the bodyguard who shot him and who was taken into custody claimed straight out that he executed the governor, his boss, for the crime of blasphemy or for the crime of opposing the blasphemy laws,” Lopez stated.
Furthermore, Lopez said the assailant acted in coordination with the rest of the security detail.
“The bodyguard had prearranged with the rest of the bodyguard team that they would not shoot to kill him in the act of murdering the governor so that he could be taken alive,” Lopez stated.
“The reason for doing that is that he believes that under Islamic law, he has done a good thing,” Lopez said.
Terrorism analyst and Islam-commentator Daniel Greenfield agrees with the theory that the assassination was coordinated with the rest of the security detail because a sizable percentage of terrorist acts are “inside jobs.”
He says Benazir Bhutto’s murder is an example.
“Bhutto’s assassination was widely believed to be an inside job. A U.N. investigation, however, couldn’t prove or disprove that it was an inside job. Also note the hero’s reception Taseer’s killer received. I have to wonder if he’s going to get away with it,” Greenfield observed.
Greenfield writes on his Islamic analysis website that terrorism is not a fringe event as some critics like to claim.
“Within the Muslim world, terrorism is not a fringe event, but an inside job. Muslim terrorists are the ‘privateers’ of their culture. Raiders who carry out attacks, with the explicit or implicit support and permission of states and political factions,” Greenfield wrote.
“That support is not given haphazardly, it’s a quid pro quo arrangement. Terrorist attacks serve the purposes of the leaders who finance them and provide space for their training camps and operations,” Greenfield stated in his analysis of the event.
A former CIA officer with experience in Pakistan says that Taseer’s assassination is likely the first stage of a new intimidation campaign.
“The more practical, secular, leaders in Pakistan are going to be subjected to more and more intimidation and assassinations as the true-believer Muslims gain strength through the activities of the Taliban and al-Qaida,” the analyst observed.
Greenfield adds that the hero’s welcome for Qadri speaks volumes about the intensity of the situation.
“For the moment a number of the assassin’s fellow security force personnel and some of his relatives have been arrested, but it’s hard to say whether there’s anything substantive to it at this stage,” Greenfield stated.
“Pakistan’s security establishment is tied in with the Islamists and the refusal of every local Muslim cleric to lead prayers at his funeral indicates just how hard line the situation on the ground is,” Greenfield explained.
The former CIA officer agrees that the situation on the ground is getting more difficult, adding that a majority of Pakistanis are sympathetic to the radicals.
“We must not forget that it has been estimated that 60 percent of the Pakistani population support the Taliban and that the Pakistani military and intelligence service (ISI) has always been about evenly split between the secular, non-religious Muslims and the true-believing Muslims who continue to support the Taliban and al-Qaida,” the analyst explained.
Lopez said that the governor was put in jeopardy because he spoke in defense of the Christian woman Asia Bibi. She adds that Bibi’s only “crime” was being a Christian.
“When this woman, Mrs. Bibi was accused of blasphemy, it was in the context of some private conversation with women in her neighborhood. It was basically a heresay case in the West, ‘She said, she said.’ But because it’s Pakistan, and because Pakistan is under Islamic law, it’s a much more serious situation,” Lopez explained.
Listen to the second part of the interview with Lopez:
The Center for Security Policy official says that some of the specifics of Islamic law come into play in how Bibi’s case was heard.
“Also because under Islamic law, the testimony of an Islamic woman is worth only one half that of a man, there have to be two women for the word to be worth that of a single man,” Lopez continued.
“Now the accuser and the accused are all women. It does bring out the very serious accusation of blasphemy and the fact that Mrs. Bibl is a Christian,” Lopez observed.
Lopez adds that the way Shariah reads, Bibi’s conviction and the governor’s fate were assured.
“The fact that the accused was in a minority faith, a Christian was accused of blasphemy, was enough to send rioters into the streets clamoring for her death,” Lopez asserted.
“And as soon as Gov. Taseer spoke on her behalf, he was in effect speaking against the blasphemy laws of Pakistan, which means he was speaking against the laws of Islam. These are laws that are in the law books of Islam. The moment he did that, he too was guilty of slander – of blasphemy against Islam,” Lopez stated.