Photo credit: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
By Jon Boone
An estimated crowd of more than 100,000 people have attended the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, in a massive show of support for the convicted murderer of a leading politician who had criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The vast gathering on Tuesday centred on Liaquat Park in Rawalpindi, where a succession of clerics made fiery speeches bitterly condemning the government for giving the go-ahead for Monday’s execution of Qadri, a former police bodyguard who became a hero to many of his countrymen after he shot and killed Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, in 2011.
Fearing violence, authorities closed schools and beefed up security in both the garrison city of Rawalpindi and neighbouring Islamabad, the capital. Key roads were closed to traffic and the “red zone” near important government buildings was sealed.
Many people had travelled from around the country to attend the funeral, and crowds spilled out of the park on to the adjacent thoroughfare where throngs crushed around the flower-strewn ambulance that eventually brought Qadri’s body to the event.
Some of the all-male crowd wore “I am Qadri” signs around their necks while others held up the front page of the Ummat newspaper for bypassers to kiss, which was entirely covered with a photo of Qadri’s dead and garlanded body.
Many in the crowd were furious with the courts for convicting Qadri, with the governing faction of prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League for not ordering a presidential pardon, and with the media for agreeing to a strict news blackout on the protests.
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