World | Pakistan

Pakistan on high alert for governor's funeral

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and thousands of PPP faithful attended funeral prayers at Governor's House at the Punjab seat of government in Lahore

  • AFP
  • Published: 14:16 January 5, 2011

Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Salman Taseer, Pakistan's Governor of Punjab province, is shown in this file photo. Taseer, of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, was killed by his own bodyguard early this year after he came out in support of a woman accused of committing blasphemy

Lahore: Thousands of Pakistanis braved high security on Wednesday to attend the funeral of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, following the country's most high-profile assassination in three years.

The 66-year-old provincial governor of Punjab, one of the country's strongest voices against religious extremism, was shot dead by a member of his own security outside an Islamabad cafe on Tuesday.

His killing horrified Pakistan's moderate elite and supporters of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), but was welcomed by members of the powerful religious right, sending shock waves through an already fragile government.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and thousands of PPP faithful attended funeral prayers at Governor's House at the Punjab seat of government in Lahore, which were delayed amid scenes of chaos as the crowd pushed each other.

His coffin, wrapped in the green and white national flag, was then flown the short distance by helicopter to a graveyard in the military cantonment in Lahore, where it was lowered into the ground by uniformed rescue workers.

The city shut down and authorities deployed security forces en masse to guard against possible unrest after dozens of PPP supporters took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the killing.

"Security is on high alert in Lahore and in the entire Punjab," Lahore commissioner Khusro Pervez told reporters.

Gilani, who is facing a fight for political survival, was forced to appeal for calm on Tuesday, with memories fresh of widespread riots after the December 2007 assassination of former PPP prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Investigations are now focused on whether the bearded police commando, who confessed to killing Taseer because of calls to reform blasphemy laws, acted alone or as part of a wider conspiracy.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, Taseer's body had 29 bullet wounds front and back, puncturing his vital organs.

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