Former Pakistan President Pervez Mushrarraf has said that the killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Tasser should be punished and not allowed to challenge the writ of the state, but pledged support for the controversial blasphemy law.

“The assassination of Taseer was wrong and his murderer should be punished,” Mr. Musharraf was quoted by The Express Tribune newspaper as telling a conference of his All Pakistan Muslim League party in London yesterday.

Mumtaz Qadri, the police guard who shot the Governor, should not be permitted to challenge the state’s writ, Mr. Musharraf said.

Mr. Qadri, a member of the Elite Force that guards VIPs, said he had gunned down Mr. Taseer for his criticism of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mr. Taseer earned the ire of religious hardliners last year when he spoke in defence of a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed and sought changes in the blasphemy law.

Mr. Musharraf said that since Muslims are very emotional about the blasphemy statute, “the controversial law must stay” in Pakistan.

However, the Islamic concepts of ‘ijtehad’ (making a decision through the independent interpretation of Islamic legal sources) and ‘ijma’ (consensus) should be used to see what can be done about the miscarriage of justice, he said.

Asked why he had not amended the blasphemy law when he was in power, Mr. Musharraf said he had introduced some procedural changes that required complainants to go to the judiciary rather than the police to file complaints.

Mr. Musharraf, also spoke on other issues and said that economy was one of the biggest challenges facing Pakistan, which is beset by hyperinflation and bankruptcy.

He announced the opening of APML offices in Quetta and Dera Bugti and the nomination of office-bearers.

The party has also set up chapters in the U.S. and Canada, where Mr. Musharraf claimed he had received a good response from the Pakistani diaspora.

Mr. Musharraf said he intended to travel by train throughout Britain and meet supporters to consolidate his party.

He reiterated his resolve to return to Pakistan before the next general election.

Mr. Musharraf, who stepped down in 2008, has been living in Britain for the past two years.

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