January 12, 2011 1:56:37 am
Cheering crowds have gathered in recent days to support the assassin who riddled the Governor of Punjab with 26 bullets and to praise his attack carried out in the name of the Prophet Muhammad as an act of heroism. To the surprise of many,chief among them have been Pakistans young lawyers,once seen as a force for democracy.
Their energetic campaign on behalf of the killer has dismayed supporters of the slain politician,Salmaan Taseer,who had challenged the nations strict blasphemy laws.
Before his court appearances,the lawyers showered rose petals over the confessed killer,Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri,a guard of the Governor, who turned his gun on him.
It may seem a stark turnabout for a group that just a few years ago looked like the vanguard of democracy. They waged months of protests in 2007 and 2008 to challenge Pakistans military dictator Pervez Musharraf after he unlawfully removed the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The lawyers stance is the most glaring expression of the influence of religious conservatism and militancy that now exists among educated middle class. They are often described as the Zia generation: Pakistanis who have come of age since the 1980s,when the military dictator,Gen Mohammad Zia ul-Haq,began promoting Islam in public education.
Around 1,000 lawyers have given their signed support for Qadris defense. Their leader Rao Abdur Raheem,30,said the group aimed to counter Taseers campaign to amend the nations blasphemy laws.
Raheem and six of his colleagues said they were only interested in ensuring rule of law. Graduates of different Pakistani universities,they insisted they were liberal. They said they had all taken part in the lawyers protest in 2007 and 2008. Yet they forcefully defended Qadri,saying he had acted on his own out of strong religious feeling. He is innocent until proved guilty, they said.
Khosa appointment faces PML-N hurdle
LAHORE: Making fresh gestures to prop up his fragile government,Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reportedly withheld the decision to appoint senior Peoples Party leader Latif Khosa as Governor of Punjab following opposition from PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
An official of the Prime Ministers House said Khosas name had been cleared by Asif Ali Zardari but Gilani told him the matter had to be reconsidered because of Sharif.
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