Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, 56, was a member of the ruling party and a close associate of President Asif Ali Zardari. Friends described him as an outspoken moderate who defended women’s rights, minorities and secularism and he was the most high-profile politician assassinated since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007.
He was shot 26 times, said Shaukat Kayani, a doctor at Poly Clinic Hospital. The interior minister said it was not clear whether the guard acted alone or was part of a larger plot.
Taseer’s death in the capital Islamabad rattled a country already mired in crises ranging from a potential collapse of the government to a virulent Islamist insurgency. It was a blow to Pakistan’s embattled secular movement and could add to concerns about inroads by Islamist extremists into the country’s security forces.
Taseer vented his opposition publicly _ even using Twitter _ to hard-line blasphemy laws that effectively order death for anyone convicted of insulting Islam. The laws have come under greater scrutiny in recent weeks after a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.