Pakistani governer Salman Taseer is assassinated

Salman Taseer, the governor of the largest province in Pakistan was assassinated today. Considered a radical in some quarters, the sharp-tongued supporter of much maligned President, Asif Ali Zardari, was an outspoken critic of religious extremists, and his views left no shortage of opposers in their wake.

According to reports by Pakistani news channels, the assassination took place Tuesday afternoon at a genteel market in the nation’s capital, and was allegedly carried out by one of his security guards.

The liberal minded Taseer was shot multiple times as he frequented the shopping plaza near his home, an area often visited by tourists.

Pakistani news channels also reported that one of Taseer’s personal guards was arrested in conjunction with his murder. The guard told the arresting officers that he was unhappy by decisions Taseer had recently made, including a public endorsement of a Christian woman’s pardon after she was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

His backing for the woman brought death threats from Islamist groups who held a strike last week in protest at proposed changed to the country’s controversial laws on blasphemy.

Taseer’s conviction to his stance was tested by the reactions of outside political groups, but he stuck by his decision, even posting on Twitter: “I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”

The slaying comes at a politically turbulent time as Pakistan’s main opposition party, which holds sway over Punjab, demanded that the federal government implement a list of reforms within three days or risk collapse.

The US-Allied government has been in tatters since Sunday when Pakistan’s second-largest political party shifted to join forces with the opposition, effectively ending the parliamentary majority of the ruling coalition (led by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party).

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement stated that government corruption, along with a large spike in petrol prices were the driving reasons behind their defection.

If Zadari is to salvage any hopes of regaining the majority he needs to cut government spending, lower fuel prices again and implement anti-corruption measures against government officials; and at a time when he needs allies, losing a supporter like Taseer must come as a bitter blow to him.

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Read about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.