And there is life for you in the law of retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may enjoy security. (Al Quran 2:179/180)
Pakistan has hanged the former police bodyguard who shot dead Punjab’s governor over his opposition to blasphemy laws, officials say.
Mumtaz Qadri killed Salman Taseer in Islamabad in 2011, in a murder that shocked the country.
Qadri was hailed as a hero by some Islamist groups, and thousands of hard-line activists protested to show their support for him at the time.
After news of his execution, crowds again took to the streets in protest.
Security forces have been put on high alert and a heavy police presence, including riot police, are in place in the area around Qadri’s home in Islamabad, AFP news agency reports.
His funeral will be held on Tuesday at Liaquat Bagh park in nearby Rawalpindi, where large numbers of mourners are expected.
Prison officials said Qadri was executed at 04:30 local time (23:30 GMT) at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad.
Qadri, who had trained as an elite police commando and was assigned to Taseer as his bodyguard, shot the politician at an Islamabad market in January 2011. He was sentenced to death later that year.
He claimed it was his religious duty to kill the minister, who was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and supported liberal reforms.
Mumtaz Qadri’s hanging has come as a surprise to many who thought such a move could spark a severe backlash from the religious lobby.
The hanging comes amid two recent developments that have already incensed religious groups.
In January, the Punjab government banned preaching in educational institutions by Tablighi Jamaat, a proselytising and revivalist movement. And earlier this month it enacted a law that provides for a helpline for women to report abuses by their husbands and others.
Amid this atmosphere, the move to hang Qadri indicates a growing confidence of the government in taming the street power of religious groups, which the military has long been accused of using to control politicians at home and fight its proxy wars abroad.
One reason may be the fact that most hard-line groups adhere to the Deobandi school and would be loath to lionise Qadri, an adherent of the rival Barelvi sect. But a more important reason seems to be the military’s new-found willingness to curb militant groups that have a domestic agenda.