Pakistan said on Tuesday it would bar Islamist organisations from staging rallies commemorating the assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
Taseer had enraged religious hardliners by calling for the reform of blasphemy laws that mandate the death penalty for insulting Islam. His stance led to his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri killing him.
Pakistan executed Qadri on February 29, 2016, leading to vast street protests, with many religious groups considering him a hero for the assassination. His supporters also built a shrine on his grave, on the outskirts of Islamabad.
“All types of protests or rallies are strictly prohibited right now, especially in this kind of security environment,” said Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan, referring to a spate of terror attacks in Pakistan this month.
Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, a coalition of Islamist groups which planned to stage a rally on Wednesday to honour Qadri., said two of its leaders had been placed under house arrest ahead of the one-year anniversary of Qadri’s death.
“The government has put our leaders under house arrest but we are not scared,” said Ali Raza, a Pakistani member of Tehreek-i-Labaik who works in China.
He said he had travelled to Qadri’s shrine for the anniversary.
“If you are a Muslim, you will be happy to be chopped up into a thousand tiny pieces but you will not rest if someone disrespects the prophet. I will come here every single year.”
More than 100 people are charged with blasphemy and jailed each year in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, many of them Christians and other minorities. Critics say the law is often invoked in cases of personal disputes.