'Pakistan needs courage from all its leaders following Taseer's killing'

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Islamabad, Jan 6(ANI): Pakistan needs courage from all of its leaders at a time when bigots are condoning Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's assassination in the name of religion, The Heritage Foundation has said.

On Tuesday, Taseer was assassinated by Qadri, one of his own elite security force protectors, who opened fire on him when he was moving towards his car in Kohsar Market, Islamabad.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Qadri had confessed to assassinating Taseer because of the governor's support for the release of Pakistani-Christian woman Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

"In a twisted response to the devastating assassination of Pakistani Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, several hundred Pakistani clerics and so-called "scholars" signed a statement condoning the slaying and warning Pakistanis against grieving the death of the Governor," said Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia at the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

"Adding insult to injury, several of the country's clerics refused to lead funeral prayers for Taseer, who was shot down by his own bodyguard for defending the rights of religious minorities against the misuse of anti-blasphemy laws," she added.

Pakistan's top religious political parties said Taseer's murder was justified and resulted from his failure "to implement Islamic laws in the country."

She said any Pakistani leader who is interested in pursuing a better future for the country and own progeny "must stand up and be counted now, or expect to live in silence forever."

Curtis wondered whether the religious parties' leaders even believe their own rhetoric or "operate out of fear of the monster they have created by misusing powerful religious sentiment for political ends."

"More importantly, Pakistan's powerful military leadership needs to weigh in on the matter, given its history of ties to the religious parties and related militant groups," she added.

Curtis noted that in April 2009, when militants were emboldened to try to move from the Swat Valley closer to Islamabad, it was not military operations alone that rolled back the existential threat, but also Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani's clear-eyed statement that the military would not allow armed insurgents to intimidate Pakistani civil society.

"That same kind of unambiguous message against those who support violence and murder in the name of religion needs to come from all of Pakistan's leaders at this critical juncture," she added. (ANI)

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