Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab

…a modern murder story

BBC Radio 4 & BBC World Service

“This stunningly good docudrama tells a true story of bravery and betrayal.” The Daily Mail

“Shocking… a modern murder story that is both astonishing and thoroughly depressing.” Miranda Sawyer, The Observer

“…from a formidable combination, World Service reporter Owen Bennett-Jones and director John Dryden.” Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph

Listen to programme:

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On 4th January 2011, self-made millionaire businessman and governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was gunned down in the parking lot of a popular Islamabad market. He had been leading a campaign to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, after an illiterate 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, from a village in his province had been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Sheikupura District jail in Pakistani Punjab. 22 November 2010. The Governor and his family have brought a mercy petition for the condemned woman, Asia Bibi

Within hours of his death, a Facebook fan page for the assassin Mumtaz Qadri had over 2000 members, before site administrators shut it down.

When Qadri was transferred to jail, he was garlanded with roses by a crowd of lawyers offering to take on his case for free. President Asif Ali Zardari, an old friend of Taseer’s, didn’t go to the funeral for fear of inflaming public opinion.

Leaders of state-funded mosques refused to say funeral prayers for the slain governor. The Interior Minister even gave an impromptu press conference announcing that he too would kill any blasphemer “with his own hands”.

Mumtaz Qadri never denied killing Salmaan Taseer. Here, he is delivered to the court in Rawalpindi through cheering crowds

Using his extensive contacts in Pakistan, presenter Owen Bennett-Jones has interviewed Taseer’s family and friends and the family of the assassin. He has also secured access to court documents including the killer’s confession.

This sixty-minute radio programme includes both interviews and dramatic reconstructions.

CAST (in alphabetical order): 

Sagar Arya , Amerjit Deu, Asif Khan, Faryal Khan, Najma Khan, Abid Majid, Mariam Majid, Ayeesha Menon, Aatif Nawaz and Hassani Shapi


Casting – Suniya Qureshi, Sound Design – Steve Bond, Executive Producer – Jeremy Skeet, Written by Owen Bennett-Jones & John Dryden, Presented by Owen Bennett-Jones, Produced and Directed by John Dryden

A Goldhawk Production for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service

BBC Radio 4 – 8th September 2012

BBC World Service - 10th-12th November 2012


  1. rbliss says:

    Riveting. Well worth listening to.

  2. standardstrio says:

    It was a haunting piece that I have not been able to quite shake off. I agree that it was beautifully done. Two things stand out – firstly that he was very brave in a quiet way, and secondly that what passes for the law in Pakistan has become utterly terrifying. Depressing but important – the format worked better than a news report, because the reality is complex and difficult to believe in its full awfulness without a lot of background.

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