- The security guard accused of assassinating the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province was ordered into police custody for five days Thursday, after a court hearing on his case had to be moved several times.
Muhammad Mumtaz Qadri has been hailed as a hero in some quarters for gunning down Gov. Salman Taseer, a liberal lawmaker who had spoken out against the country's blasphemy laws, which make it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.
"He had taken a very brave position on the blasphemy laws," said Taseer's sister-in-law, Ayesha Tammy Haq, who noted that the governor had come under intense criticism from fundamentalists after suggesting that the capital punishment aspect of the law ought to be revisited. "I think the Pakistan People's Party will honor its commitment" to amend the law, she said.
Qadri's hearing in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court came hours after it was originally supposed to be held, and illustrated the power of hard-liners on Pakistan's streets to influence court proceedings.
Police had planned to bring the suspect to the court in Rawalpindi early Thursday morning. But Qadri's supporters -- conservative lawyers, madrasa students and others -- converged on the courthouse.
Many cheered him for shooting Taseer, and for security reasons authorities changed plans and drove Qadri to Islamabad in an armored vehicle, planning to hold the hearing in a makeshift court in a heavily secured area of the capital.
There were three layers of security at that site, and media and onlookers were kept well back from the vehicle that carried Qadri.
Officials say Judge Malik Mohammad Akram Awan was asked to come to Islamabad to preside over the hearing. But the crowd of supporters in Rawalpindi prevented the judge from traveling to the capital, so police had to bring Qadri back to Rawalpindi to hold his hearing there.
Officials say police had asked to keep Qadri in custody for 12 days, but the judge granted five.
Investigators plan to continue interrogating the bodyguard. They're trying to determine if he acted alone, or had outside help.
On Wednesday, authorities said that Qadri was banned five months ago by a provincial police official from providing security to VIPs.
The director inspector general of Punjab Police said the guard had extremist views and it had been determined it was unsafe for him to guard important officials, said the Pakistani president's special political adviser, Faisal Raza Abidi.
Despite that assessment, the Punjab Police employed Qadri for security this week.
The warning signs about Qadri go back even further, said Rana Shahid Pervez, senior police official in Rawalpindi.
Pakistani intelligence agencies had warned officials in 2004 not to use Qadri after they uncovered connections between him and the religious group Dawat-e-Islami -- a Sunni group that claims it has a closer connection to the Prophet Mohammed than other Muslims.
Pervez said Qadri came from an area of Rawalpindi called Sadiq Abad, adjacent to the capital, Islamabad. He came from a poor family and his father is a laborer who built homes.
Qadri joined the police force in 2002, and was selected for the elite force course in 2008, four years after the warning from intelligence agencies, Pervez said.
Qadri was one of 468 elite force guards in the Rawalpindi Police, which randomly assigns them as escorts to VIPs and officials like Taseer.
Qadri was assigned to the governor on Tuesday. He had been his security guard many times before the shooting, according to Pervez, who disputed the reported link to Dawat-e-Islami.
Qadri "killed the governor totally from his own beliefs regarding Mohammed, and no group was behind him," Pervez said.
The shooting occurred at a market in Islamabad.
Qadri confessed to assassinating Taseer because "he did blasphemy of the Prophet Mohammed," Naeem Iqbal, spokesman for Islamabad police, said Tuesday. Qadri told police Taseer had described the blasphemy laws as "the black laws."
After the shooting, Qadri immediately surrendered to authorities, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported, citing Interior Minister Rahman Malik.
Dr. Sharif Astori, a spokesman for Poly Clinic Hospital, told CNN doctors counted 26 bullets in the governor's body.
A spotlight was put on Pakistan's controversial law in November when a Christian woman, Asia Bibi of Punjab province, was sentenced to death for blasphemy. A court found the 45-year-old woman guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a 2009 argument with fellow Muslim field workers.
An investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges against Bibi stemmed from "religious and personal enmity" and recommended she be released. The government also said it would review the law.
Taseer said he would like to see the law "changed in such a way that it just basically says, if you insult any prophet, no matter who he is, that's a criminal offense, but certainly not punishable by death."