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Taseer murder: Cop in Pak PM's team detained

By Rezaul H Laskar
January 09, 2011 17:01 IST
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A Pakistani policeman attached to Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani's security detail has been detained along with an official of the country's electronic media watchdog in connection with Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer's assassination, while investigators are looking for a cleric who motivated the killer.

Mumtaz Qadri, the Elite Force guard who gunned down 66-year-old Taseer in Islamabad on Tuesday for opposing the controversial blasphemy law, told the police that he had been motivated by a cleric from the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Qadri, 26, surrendered soon after he shot Taseer in an upscale market. Despite several raids, police were unsuccessful in apprehending the cleric or tracing his whereabouts, the Dawn newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The daily identified the cleric only as 'QH', apparently the initials in the man's name. Qadri attended a religious congregation on December 31 near his house at Sadiqabad in Rawalpindi, where the cleric delivered a speech on blasphemy.

Fired by the speech, Qadri met the cleric and discussed with him the issue of killing people committing blasphemy. When Qadri asked the cleric how blasphemers should be dealt with, he encouraged the policeman to kill them, the sources said.

"After the motivation, I decided to kill the governor," Qadri reportedly told investigators. Investigators have gathered details about the cleric and his name has been put on a list of wanted persons. An official of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has been detained for his alleged role in motivating Qadri.

Another friend of Qadri, who was detained on same charges, was released after being questioned. Investigators have also detained another personnel of the Elite Force who is a member of the prime minister's security detail. He is a friend of Qadri and had been in touch with him. Qadri used to discuss the issue of blasphemy with this personnel, the sources told the daily.

Qadri has claimed that he killed Taseer because he was angered by the governor's criticism of the blasphemy law. Investigators are trying to determine if he acted alone or was part of a conspiracy.

Qadri was drummed out of the Special Branch of Rawalpindi Police several years ago after an official declared him a security risk because of his extremist leanings. Investigators have also found out that Qadri had links with different religious groups.

These links first came to light during an internal scrutiny of the Elite Force in 2005 after two attempts on the life of former President Pervez Musharraf.

At that time, Qadri was with the Special Branch and he was subsequently transferred to the Police Lines in 2006. Security agencies had detained nearly 40 people, including over 30 police personnel and several of Qadri's relatives, immediately after the assassination. Many of them have been released after questioning, though 10 people continue to be in custody.

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Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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