London : Judge Pervez Ali Shah who sentenced to death the killer of then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer has fled to Saudi Arabia after receiving death threats from religious extremists, BBC reported Tuesday.
Taseer was gunned down because of his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law. Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, who killed Taseer, said he was proud of what he had done.
Critics of the law say it can be used to persecute minority faiths and is sometimes exploited for grudges.
Qadri shot the man he was supposed to be guarding 27 times in the back Jan 4 in Islamabad.
Qadri’s lawyers told the BBC their client argued that it was not unlawful because “he killed an apostate who insulted the prophet”.
Salmaan Taseer had called for debate about the law – which human rights groups have condemned as unjust.
The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says the judge has been forced to put a hold on his career – and his fate will serve as a warning to other judges willing to take on the tough task of tackling extremism in Pakistan.
The death penalty has rarely been carried out in Pakistan in recent years.
Two months after Taseer’s death, then minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was also murdered after speaking out about the need for debate about the laws.
Correspondents say the killings have temporarily stifled the debate.
In August, Taseer’s son Shahbaz was kidnapped in Lahore. His fate is unknown and militants are suspected of carrying out the abduction. The Pakistani government has said it has no intention of amending the blasphemy law.