Pakistan: Mumtaz Qadri gets hero's funeral as thousands protest execution

Tens of thousands of Islamist supporters gave Mumtaz Qadri a martyr's funeral in Pakistan on Tuesday, the day after he was executed for murder.

Qadri was hanged on Monday morning for the murder of Salman Taseer, former governor of Punjab, who he killed because of Taseer's opposition to the country's blasphemy laws. However some Muslim hard-liners consider Qadri a hero for the defending the faith and took to the streets to protest his execution.

"Qadri, your blood will bring the revolution" and "the punishment for a blasphemer is beheading" were chants heard from the crowd at the funeral in Rawalpindi, just south of Islamabad, which was attended by over 15,000 according to police estimates. However others put the figure at nearer 40,000 according to the Business Standard.

Supporters shout slogans during a demonstration against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri in IslamabadReuters

Most schools in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad were closed for the second day running as authorities feared the protests would turn violent.

"Special measures have been taken to check any untoward incident," said one Interior Ministry official.

Qadri was arrested after he shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight near his home in Islamabad in 2011. He was hanged at 4.30am in Adialia jail in Rawalpindi yesterday.

He told police he had killed the former Punjab governer because Taseer had championed the cause of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case that arose out of a personal dispute. Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.

Controversy over the law has exposed the growing gap between religious conservatives and liberals in Pakistan with hard-line religious leaders considering Taseer a blasphemer himself for even criticising the law.

A number of lawyers showered Qadri with petals when he first arrived in court after the killing and the judge who first convicted him was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats.

Additional reporting by Reuters.