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Bhutto son hits out over Pak governor killing


The son of slain Pakistani ex-leader Benazir Bhutto has condemned those who have praised the assassination of a provincial governor opposed to the country's blasphemy laws.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told mourners Monday at the Pakistan High Commission in London that people who have voiced support for the killer of Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer were "the real blasphemers."

"Because of you, the message of Islam is distorted in the eyes of the world," said Bhutto Zardari, whose father is Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

"Those who attack my religion, especially those who corrupt its peaceful message, you are what I call covert blasphemers and you will be defeated," he continued.

"This will be our jihad."

Bhutto Zardari further pledged to defend Christians and other minorities in the country.

"We will defend you. For those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit, they will have to go through me first," he said.

Taseer was a member of the main ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of which Bhutto Zardari is co-chairman with his father.

The governor was shot dead by his bodyguard outside an Islamabad coffee shop on Tuesday last week, in the most high-profile assassination in Pakistan since ex-PPP prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007.

Many from Pakistan's conservative religious quarter have praised Taseer's killer for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician.

The gunman, police commando Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, has said he killed in the name of religion because of the governor's stance on blasphemy laws.

More than 50,000 people from religious groups rallied in Karachi Sunday in support of Qadri, calling him a hero and demanding that any effort to reform the blasphemy law -- recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death -- be dropped.

Speaking at the memorial meeting late Monday, Bhutto Zardari compared the killing of Taseer with that of his mother three years ago, saying they both died defending the real message of Islam.

"My mother embraced martyrdom while defending our faith. She was martyred doing her jihad against those who had hijacked our religion," said Bhutto.

"On January 4, Shaheed Salman Taseer was assassinated because he too refused to be silenced. He too was assassinated in defence of our religion.

"He died defending the message of Islam."