Islamabad: Pakistan's fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party has asked President Asif Ali Zardari to use his special powers to grant amnesty to Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer's self-confessed assassin Mumtaz Qadri, who was sentenced to death last month.

A resolution passed by the Jamaat-e-Islami's 'shura' or council urged the President to announce an amnesty for Qadri under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a controversial law passed by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf to provide relief to politicians of the ruling PPP who were charged in various criminal cases.

"Government should withdraw the case against him (Qadri) for murdering Taseer in the public interest," it said.

The Jamaat-e-Islami referred to thousands of cases against criminals and politicians that were withdrawn under the NRO.

Qadri, who was angered by Taseer's opposition to the controversial blasphemy law, confessed to killing the outspoken Governor in an anti-terrorism court that subsequently convicted him and gave him two death sentences for two counts of terrorism and murder. His lawyers have filed an appeal against the sentence in the Islamabad High Court.

However, the Jamaat-e-Islami's leadership observed in the resolution: "Qadri gunned down Taseer for criticising the blasphemy law in line with the sentiments of the masses."

The party referred to Article 45 of the Constitution which empowers the President to grant pardon to anybody.

Taseer had similarly sought a presidential pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy.

Qadri cited this as an incident that had angered him. He has also said that he was irked by the late Governor's criticism of the blasphemy law.  The Jamaat-e-Islami further demanded that the government categorically announce that the blasphemy law would not be changed.

Europe and the US should be asked to stop criticising the law because it is an internal matter of Pakistan, it said.

The Jamaat-e-Islami criticised Zardari, saying the President and chief of Pakistan's largest political party PPP had shocked people when he described Taseer as a hero while the anti-terrorism court "let down" the people by giving the death sentence to Qadri.

Senior Jamaat leader Khurshid Ahmed claimed that Qadri's case is "special and represents the nation's feelings".
In a related development, the Sunni Ittehad Council yesterday organised processions to protest Qadri's conviction in Karachi and other cities in Pakistan.

It announced it would organise a "train march" from Karachi to Rawalpindi on November 20.

The protest in Karachi caused severe traffic snarls on many busy streets.

Sunni Ittehad Council activists were carrying placards with slogans in favour of Qadri.

Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat chief Maulana Shah Turabul Haq Qadri claimed that Mumtaz Qadri's conviction was against the injunctions of Islam.

Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ijaz Qadri said CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore earlier this year, was released on the intervention of the US government.

He criticised Pakistan government for convicting Taseer's killer, who, according to him, had "fulfilled a religious duty".

The protesters burnt US flags and effigies of Raymond Davis and demanded that Mumtaz Qadri be immediately released.