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Hillary asked to refuse visas to Qadri supporters

Islamabad: Four US Congressmen have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to refuse visas to Pakistani nationals who praised the assassination of outspoken Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and showed support for his police guard Mumtaz Qadri who gunned him down.

In a letter sent to Clinton yesterday, Congressmen Gary Ackerman, Steve Israel, Peter King and Michael McCaul said "some of the most prominent clerics, journalists and lawyers who have praised Taseer`s death and have demonstrated support of his murderer, are people who frequently travel to the US and hold American visas."

"We urge you to identify those Pakistani citizens that have shown demonstrable support of the assassination of Governor Taseer. We further request that visas not be issued to such people and that applications for new visas from those who have endorsed this heinous crime be denied," the letter said.

Taseer was shot dead in Islamabad on January 4 by his police guard Qadri, personnel of the Elite Force who said he was angered by the Governor`s criticism of Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law.

Taseer had also angered religious hardliners by defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Following Taseer`s assassination, over 40,000 members of radical groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, rallied in Karachi on Sunday to express support for Qadri.

The rally was addressed by JuD leaders and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who pledged to defend Qadri in court.

Lawyers and members of radical groups showered rose petals on Qadri when he was produced in courts in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Dozens of lawyers offered to defend him free of charge.

The US Congressmen said in their letter that their request for denial of visas to supporters of Qadri was "not just a moral issue but also an issue of national security."

They said it was "shocking" that Taseer, a "strong advocate for religious tolerance, pluralism and democracy," was "cut down by an assassin`s bullets who opposed changes to statutes against religious minorities."

"This unspeakable tragedy has been compounded by the public reaction of significant elements of Pakistan`s clerical, journalistic and law community who have praised the murderer and threatened the lives of other Pakistani officials who refuse to comply with the terrorisation of Christians, Ahmedis and women," the letter said.

The Congressmen also noted that Pakistan People`s Party leader Sherry Rehman has been threatened for introducing a bill in Parliament for changes to the blasphemy law.

"Further threats and violence are not the answer," the letter said.

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