RAWALPINDI - The authorities yestarday executed Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the self-confessed killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, at the high security Adaila Jail.

Qadri had shot the governor dead at an upscale Islamabad market in January 2011, angered over the controversy over blasphemy laws.

Taseer had been campaigning for changes in the country’s blasphemy laws, asserting that the laws were being used to persecute religious minorities.

Qadri was sentenced to death, on terrorism charges, by a court in 2011 and his subsequent appeals against the verdict were turned down by the higher courts. Last month, President Mamnoon Hussain rejected his mercy petition.

The execution took place at 4:30am Monday and around 6:15 am, the body was handed over to the relatives, who brought it to his residence in Sadiqabad neighbourhood of Rawalpindi.

Supporters of Qadri soon started streaming to his residence to view his body and dozens later took to the streets to protest. Subsequently, the expressway connecting Islamabad and Rawalpindi was blocked.

Family of Qadri had to shift the body to a house owned by PTI UC Chairman Haji Azhar Iqbal Satti adjacent to their house due to huge number of people waiting to have a look at the body.

Sunni Tehreek activists and locals made their own security arrangement while no Ranger of police was present near the venue.

A walkthrough gate was installed at the entry and his supporters were only allowed to get in. Nearby markets were all closed and locals were present outside Qadri’s house.

Small protests took place in different parts of the city, but the protesters remained peaceful, officials said. The Metro bus service was suspended while government and private educational institutes were closed down due to security concerns.

No major incidents of violence were reported and religious leaders also issued statements, urging protesters not to take law into their hands. Heavy contingents of police and paramilitary troops were also deployed at the entry points of the capital.

Many activists of seminaries forcefully stopped the motorcyclists from entering in twin cities. However, they allowed the ambulances and those commuters, who were going to donate blood to their patients in hospitals.

Police and Rangers did not attempt to stop the protesters. The security outside the house of Interior Minister Nisar Ali was also beefed up.

Family and religious parties have announced that the funeral service of Qadri will be held at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi at 2pm today.

Major political parties played down the hype associated with the execution of Qadri calling it a judicial decision.

The ruling PML-N, however, blamed the protesters of contempt of court as the execution took place after all legal formalities.

The head of the Islamabad Bar Council called for a day-long strike of lawyers in protest against the hanging.

The Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl mainly supported the demonstrations against the hanging.

Qadri’s lawyers argued he was justified in killing Taseer, saying by criticising the law the politician was himself guilty of blasphemy — an argument rejected by the courts.

PML-N lawmaker Sheikh Rohail Asghar said the people had a right to protest but demonstrating against a judicial decision was a contempt of court.

He said Qadri was executed after exhausting all the appeals. “He went to the High Court and the Supreme Court. His appeal was also rejected by the presidency so there was no choice. He did not go to the family of Salman Taseer for pardon,” said the PML-N leader.

Asghar asked the people to be patient and accept judicial decisions even when they are against them.

PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said it was a judicial decision and people must accept it gracefully.

He said Qadri was convicted of murder and went through a legal process before being hanged.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf lawmaker Arif Alvi said Qadri’s hanging took place after the judicial process.

“There is nothing to comment. It was a judicial decision. Qadri did appeal in superior courts and the presidency but in the end the execution took place. I think the people should show patience,” he remarked.

Late Taseer’s family was satisfied with the outcome as his widow Aamna Taseer tweeted, “Justice...finally!!”

Right-wing parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and the JUI-F kept urging people to protest against the execution.

JI chief Sirajul Haq has asked his followers to attend Qadri’s funeral in large numbers and demonstrate across the country.

JUI-F leaders said the country allowed Raymond Davis to escape but hanged Qadri. The party vowed to hold countrywide demonstrations against the execution.

Israr Ahmed and Shafqat Ali