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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A leading politician from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party who had recently spoken out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws was killed Tuesday by a member of his security detail in an upscale market in Islamabad, his political secretary and police said.

Salmaan Taseer, who was governor of Pakistan’s most-populous Punjab province, was attacked in Kohsar Market, a strip mall in the heart of one of Islamabad’s toniest neighborhoods as he got into his car after lunch.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told local television the attacker, who he named as Malik Mumtaz Qadri, was a member of Mr. Taseer’s elite forces security detail. Mr. Qadri allegedly shot repeatedly into Mr. Taseer’s silver Honda Civic before giving himself up to police, the minister said. The attacker later told police he shot Mr. Taseer because of his views on removing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, according to Mr. Malik.

No other people appeared to be injured in the attack.

Mr. Taseer had recently spoken out in defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy and calling for the law to be struck down, drawing ire from Islamist parties. Recently on Twitter, Mr. Taseer had been calling for people to demonstrate on the street against the blasphemy laws, which date to the dictatorship of former military Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

The killing ends a period of quiet for Islamabad, which hasn’t seen a major attack since an Islamist suicide bomber targeted the World Food Program’s offices in October 2009, killing five local staff. Security in Islamabad has been tight since a truck bomb attack in 2008 on the Marriott Hotel killed more than 50 people, with roadblocks on all major routes in to the city.

It also comes as Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP-led government is facing political turmoil after a key coalition member joined the opposition at the weekend. The political crisis comes as Pakistan is facing growing economic problems, including an expanding budget deficit and runaway inflation. Foreign donors, including the U.S., fear the political and economic issues will distract Pakistan’s leadership from efforts to fight Taliban extremists on its border with Afghanistan.

Mr. Taseer was appointed governor in 2008 after the PPP came to power in general elections following the fall of Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military government. Punjab province’s day-to-day affairs are run by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, from the Pakistan Muslim League (N), an opposition party.

Shaukat Ali, a laborer who was in Kohsar market at the time of the attacks, said he heard multiple shots and later saw Mr. Taseer lying on the ground. The car was parked just outside Mocha Café, a venue popular with foreign aid workers and diplomats. A local outlet of U.S.-based Gloria Jean’s Coffees and a supermarket popular with foreigners are located nearby. Later Tuesday, PPP party members came to lay wreaths over the place where Mr. Taseer had been shot.

Source : The wall street Journal

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