Pakistan's Punjab governor assassinated in Islamabad

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Pakistan's Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard Tuesday afternoon at a market in the downtown area of the country's capital Islamabad, reported local media.

Police and local people gather at the site where the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, on Jan. 4, 2011. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed Tuesday afternoon by one of his security people in a downtown area of Pakistan's capital Islamabad. [Ahmad Kamal/Xinhua]

According to the reports, the assassination took place at about 4:10 p.m. local time when one of the police escorting the governor at the Kohsar market in the northern part of the city fired at him while he was about to step inside his Honda Civic 2010 car after having lunch and coffee drinks at the market.

There are also reports saying that the governor was killed while he was just stepping out of his car.

Eyewitnesses told Xinhua that the assassin fired with a AK-47 at the Punjab governor a whole magazine of bullets and one local media report quoted hospital sources as saying that the governor received 11 bullets in his body, three of which were in the chest, four in the neck and the remaining four in the belly.

Following the attack, the assassin laid down his gun and surrendered himself to the rest of the policemen escorting the governor. But earlier reports said that the assassin was arrested after he was shot twice in the leg by his colleagues.

Xinhua reporters learned on the spot that six suspects had been arrested by police following the attack.

The assassin, a commando of Elite Force named Mumtaz Qadri aged at 26, claimed that he killed the governor because the governor was against the blasphemy law of Islam. The killer also confessed that he made the assassination plan three days ago. He said that he had been waiting for his turn to be on duty for the protection of the Punjab governor.

But the real motive is yet to be investigated as the incident came at a time when Nawaz Sharif, chief of Pakistan's largest opposition party PML-N, was holding a press conference in Islamabad, raising his party's conditions for the support of the current government.

The current government led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been facing a serious political crisis after it has lost the simple majority in the seats of the lower house of the country's parliament following the Sunday's decision by MQM, a major local party, to withdraw from the coalition government formed in early 2008.

Following the incident, the entire public and media attention in the country has been shifted from Nawaz Sharif's press conference to the assassination of the Punjab governor. Local watchers believe that the assassination could have some other political motives judging the timing of the assassination.

The assassinated Punjab governor is a PPP member. He came into the office in 2008 as the 26th governor of the Punjab province, the most populated province in the country's eastern side bordering India.

The deceased governor is said to be survived by his wife and six children. He is also the second highest ranking member of PPP who has been assassinated over the last decade in the country. In December 2007, Benazir Bhutto, the chairperson of PPP, was assassinated during an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjacent to Islamabad.

Following the assassination of the Punjab province governor, the Pakistani government has announced a three-day national mourning starting from Wednesday and the PPP has also announced a 15-day mourning for this. All the shops have reportedly been closed in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, following the assassination and a nation-wide protest has been launched by PPP workers in each of the major cities across the country.

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