An anti-terrorism court has refused to issue arrest warrants for two clerics whose fiery speeches reportedly incited the police guard who gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for criticising Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.
Investigators probing the governor's assassination had submitted an application to Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court Judge Malik Mohammad Akram Awan, seeking warrants for the arrest of the unnamed clerics.
The judge rejected the application on Monday though investigators told him that Mumtaz Qadri, the Elite Force personnel who killed Taseer, had said he was motivated by speeches delivered by the two clerics at a religious congregation held near Qadri's house at Sadiqabad in Rawalpindi on December 31.
The court was informed that investigators wanted to question the clerics about their speeches in which they had reportedly justified the killing of all blasphemers.
Though Qadri has claimed he was solely responsible for the assassination, he has also admitted he was motivated by the speeches of the clerics and killed the governor as he considered him a blasphemer.
Despite the arguments put forward by the prosecution, the judge refused to issue the arrest warrants. One of the clerics is employed as a teacher at Madrassa Darul Uloom Zia at Chirah Road in Muslimabad, Rawalpindi, while the other works at Amna Masjid in the same neighbourhood.
Shortly after the governor's assassination on January 4, the clerics relocated to another religious seminary in Rawalpindi to avoid arrest. Investigators feared there would be law and order problems if they raided the seminary to arrest the clerics, because over 2,000 students live in the madrassa, officials said.
In a separate development, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Tariq Mehmood Pirzada has issued a notification for conducting Qadri's trial inside Adiala Jail due to security concerns.
The notification was issued in response to a request made by the Islamabad Police. Investigators are yet to determine whether Qadri acted on his own or was part of a wider conspiracy.
Qadri was assigned to protect VIPs like Taseer, the prime minister and the president despite being declared a 'security risk' in 2004 because of his extremist leanings.