Murdered Punjab governor buried
The governor of Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, was buried Wednesday amid tight security, a day after he was shot dead by his bodyguard over a row about the country's blasphemy laws, DPA reported.
Around 3,000 supporters of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party chanted slogans to honour Salman Taseer, while Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and several members of his cabinet attended the funeral ceremony held at the Governor's House in the provincial capital Lahore.
Some 4,000 policemen guarded the area and the military graveyard where Taseer was subsequently buried.
All businesses and schools remained closed Wednesday in Lahore and many other cities across the country.
Taseer, 66, a close aide to the President Asif Ali Zardari, took a firm stand against the controversial blasphemy law last year when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death by a court in Punjab for allegedly uttering derogatory remarks about the prophet Mohammed.
He launched a campaign to get a presidential pardon for Bibi and vehemently criticized the laws that allowed many people to settle scores by wrongfully accusing enemies.
Some religious scholars issued decrees calling for the death of Taseer, one of the most vocal liberal voices against Islamist radicalism in Pakistan, but the slain governor remained defiant.
"What do you think I care about the decrees from some ignorant mullahs - they have no significance for me," Taseer told the BBC Urdu Service a few weeks ago.
The 26-year-old guard, who shot Taseer multiple times with a sub-machinegun, surrendered to his colleagues and proudly told reporters that he had murdered the governor because of his stance against the blasphemy laws.
The murder has exposed deep-rooted religious extremism in Pakistan, a key ally in the international fight against terrorism.
Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, previously known as moderate group for its opposition to the Taliban insurgency, supported the murder and said its members should not attend Taseer's funeral.
The group asked people "not to express regrets or sympathies over his assassination," in a statement issued late on Tuesday.
"Those favoring the person indulging in blasphemy are themselves blasphemous."
While Pakistani leaders expressed cautious condemnation of the assassination, the international community strongly deplored the murder.
"The European Union urges the Pakistan authorities to bring the perpetrators of this crime rapidly to justice," a statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called Taseer a "prominent leader whose death is a loss for Pakistan."