The assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was on Thursday remanded to police custody for five days by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court after a seven-hour drama during which lawyers and madrassa students tried to disrupt the proceedings and showered rose petals on him.
Judge Malik Mohammad Akram Awan of the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court accepted an application from police seeking custody of 26-year-old Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who assassinated Taseer on Tuesday for opposing the controversial blasphemy law, for five days.
The judge directed police to conduct a medical examination of Qadri, who was one of the security guards of Taseer.
Late in the afternoon, Qadri was taken in an armoured car to the court complex, where a large crowd of Islamist lawyers and seminary students shouted slogans in support of the assassin and showered rose petals on him.
Police had initially planned to produce Qadri in the Rawalpindi court in the morning. They changed their plans after a large number of supporters gathered at the court complex.
In the wake of media reports that people feted Qadri during another court appearance on Wednesday, authorities first decided to hold the proceedings in a makeshift court set up in a heavily-protected building in Sector G-7 of Islamabad.
An official notification was issued in this regard and Judge Awan was asked to come from Rawalpindi for the proceedings.
Qadri too was taken to the complex in Islamabad in an armoured vehicle.
However, the crowd in Rawalpindi prevented Judge Awan from travelling to Islamabad, witnesses said. The crowd gave an undertaking that their actions would not affect security for Qadri and the court.
The judge backed down and asked police to bring Qadri to Rawalpindi.
Subsequently, Qadri was produced before the judge after a delay of about seven hours.
Qadri, who was part of Taseer’s security detail, gunned down the Governor in a market in Islamabad on Tuesday. He confessed to the killing, saying he had been angered by Taseer’s criticism of the blasphemy law.
He was booked under the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Investigators are trying to determine whether he acted alone or was part of a wider conspiracy.
During Qadri’s first court appearance on Wednesday, a group of supporters cheered him and shouted slogans in his support.