The cheers and tears across the country Wednesday underscored Pakistan’s journey in recent decades from a nation defined by moderate Islam to one increasingly influenced by fundamentalists willing to use violence to impose their views.
Even moderate Muslim scholars praised 26-year-old Mumtaz Qadri. He is accused of fatally shooting Punjab province Gov. Salman Taseer on Tuesday while he was supposed to be protecting him as a bodyguard. Officials said Qadri later told authorities he acted because of Taseer’s vocal opposition to blasphemy laws that order death for those who insult Islam.
As Qadri was escorted into court in Islamabad, a rowdy crowd patted his back and kissed his cheek as lawyers at the scene threw flowers. Qadri has yet to be charged. Questions have arisen over how he was assigned to Taseer’s security detail.