The confessed killer of a liberal Pakistani governor pleaded guilty Monday to a murder he said was justified under Islam, while outside the court supporters bearing flowers and cards wished him a happy Valentine's Day.
Mumtaz Qadri shot dead Punjab province Gov. Salman Taseer in January while serving as one of his bodyguards. Qadri has told authorities he killed Taseer because the governor spoke out against harsh Pakistani blasphemy laws that impose the death sentence for insulting Islam.
The assassination horrified Pakistan's relatively small liberal elite. However, many Pakistanis, including some in the religious establishment and in legal circles, have praised Qadri — a sign of the spread of Islamic fundamentalist thought in this South Asian nation.
Qadri was indicted Monday on a murder charge by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi city during a session closed to media. When the judge asked Qadri if he'd intentionally killed Taseer, the 26-year-old said he didn't consider his actions illegal, said defense lawyer Shuja-ur-Rehman Raja.
Claiming justification under Quranic and Islamic law, the assassin killed "an apostate", i.e., someone who disagreed with ultra orthodox interpretations of Islam. Now, Islamic activists carry banners saluting him and demand his release. College students bring him flowers and Valentine's Day gifts. Lawyers salute and applaud him.
Where is the "moderate" Islam we always hear about?