By Worthy News' Xavier P. William in Pakistan with reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- The governor of Pakistan's powerful Punjab province was shot and killed in the nation's capital by one of his own bodyguards in apparent retaliation for his campaign against the country's controversial blasphemy law, police and human rights activists said.
Governor Punjab Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own elite security team, with at least one opening fire at his car in Islamabad after he left a local restaurant, witnesses said.
He was reportedly shot multiple times in the Kohsar Market area of Islamabad. Authorities said Taseer received bullet shots in his chest. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to save his life.
Christians linked the killing to the governor's support for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faces the death penalty for alleged blasphemy against Islam's Prophet Muhammad, charges she strongly denies.
Islamic groups have threatened to attack those opposing the legislation.
In a statement, Pakistani human rights activist Cecil Chaudhry, who knew the governor said the shooting "is tragic and should never have happened.”
He described the incident as “absolutely shameful”.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said Tuesday's assassination was a “tragic reminder of the extreme danger” faced by those opposing the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation, which was criticized by the late governor, stipulates that defaming the Islamic prophet Muhammad is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Critics say Muslim radicals have used the law to repeatedly incite violence against minority Christians, other religious minorities and even Muslims.
Scores of people, most of them Christians, have been killed in attacks sparked by blasphemy allegations, according to church and rights groups. Christians have also spend years in prison on blasphemy allegations.