UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the assassination of Pakistan’s Punjab province Governor Salmaan Taseer, terming it as a great loss for the country.

“The Secretary-General condemns the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Province in Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer, a prominent leader whose death is a loss for Pakistan,” said a statement attributable to the spokesman of the UN chief.

“The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the family of Mr. Taseer and to the Government and people of Pakistan,” the statement said.

Taseer was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards in Kohsar market in Islamabad yesterday.

Upon surrendering to authorities, the assassin is reported to have voiced his opposition to the reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

The assassination was also condemned by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRD).

“Governor Taseer had been courageous in his criticism of Pakistan’s flawed blasphemy law, comments which ultimately cost him his life,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.

“His murder sadly demonstrates how the blasphemy law has fueled a culture of impunity that threatens both Muslims and members of minority religious communities. We urge Pakistan to eliminate its blasphemy law, which impedes freedom of religion and belief and can only weaken its internal security and stability. And, we urge the authorities to bring the attacker to justice,” Leo said.

“Governor Taseer was a proud champion of democracy and respect for the rights of women and minorities,” said John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“He fearlessly stood up to the threats of extremists, and lost his life in defense of moderation and tolerance, values shared by most Pakistani citizens. The best way to honour his legacy is to continue resisting violent extremism and supporting the core principles on which Pakistan was founded,” Kerry said.

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