Jail official claims Salmaan Taseer’s murderer encouraged three guards to target blasphemy convicts.
Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman facing the death penalty for murdering Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, incited a prison guard to shoot an elderly British man convicted of blasphemy, according to an internal inquiry.
Mohammad Asghar, whom British doctors say is mentally ill, was shot and wounded by a guard at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail last month. The 70-year-old was sentenced to death for blasphemy in January after he claimed to be a prophet of Islam in a case that has prompted concern from British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The prison guard, Mohammad Yousuf, had spent more than two weeks guarding Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer three years ago, a senior jail official said. He said an initial inquiry by a four-member committee found that Qadri had also prepared two other prison officers to hunt down blasphemy convicts in the prison.
“The accused [Yousuf] was deployed outside the cell of Mumtaz Qadri during the incident and he had confessed to taking religious lessons from him,” the jail official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The claims will heighten concerns about staff being radicalized by hardline inmates in Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons.
Qadri, who was Taseer’s bodyguard, shot him dead at an Islamabad coffee shop over the politician’s call for Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws to be reformed. Qadri was feted as a hero by a wide section of the public including lawyers, and was even showered with rose petals as he arrived at court for a trial hearing.
Three other prisoners held in the same part of the jail supported the official’s account of events. They said guards regularly took religious instruction from Qadri. “I was sleeping when I woke to the sound of gunshots and I saw the prison staff grabbing one of their fellows while Asghar was lying on the ground in a pool of blood,” said an inmate living next to Asghar’s cell.
A second prisoner who saw the attack said a guard appeared in the wing and demanded to know where Asghar was.
“The prison staff usually shout at us and I thought Asghar’s family or lawyers must have sent him something, so I didn’t pay any attention, but then I heard the first gunshot,” the prisoner added. He said Asghar was trying to hide in the bathroom area of his cell while the gunman was firing at him. “He was lucky that he reached the bathroom and the other prison staff arrived to grab the assassin, otherwise he would have been killed,” he said.
Asghar, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in Britain in 2010, had claimed to be a prophet in court and included a reference to it on his business card, a government prosecutor said at the time of his trial.