Malik Mumtaz Qadri is accused of shooting Taseer, governor of Punjab province, in Islamabad on Tuesday. Qadri, who was part of Taseer's security detail, said afterward that he was angered by Taseer's work to loosen the country's blasphemy laws, according to media reports.
Police suspect 12 people, including six police officers, of abetting the crime by failing to stop the shooting. Qadri had previously been removed from counterterrorism duty due to suspected Islamist leanings, The Wall Street Journal said, citing unidentified sources. He later volunteered to work in Taseer's detail, it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "His death is a great loss." President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
The reports about Taseer's Islamist tendencies have prompted outrage and frustration among many Pakistani officials. Law Minister Babar Awan called the killing a "huge criminal security failure."
"The protection of the constitutional head of a province was entrusted to murderers," Awan said, according to Agence-France Presse. "Why were those declared a security risk assigned to VIP duty?"
Many in Pakistan have celebrated Taseer's death. When Qadri appeared in court today, he was showered with rose petals, according to AFP.
"Pray for the ascension of Qadri to heaven," one message on Facebook read, according to the Journal.
Investigators are examining Qadri's links with Dawat-i-Islami, a group that has protested against efforts to change the country's blasphemy laws.
The killing has raised concerns that militant Islamist groups have penetrated Pakistan's security services, posing a potential threat to the leaders of this key U.S. ally.
The killing exposed a deep divide in Pakistan, with wealthy leaders on one side and a strongly religious segment of the population on the other.
"There should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy," the scholars said, according to CBS News.
The investigation into Qadri's role in the killing will go on, with the eyes of the world on Pakistan. In the meantime, fears are growing about security in this nuclear-armed country.
"Is anyone safe? This country is day by day becoming less and less tolerant, and that's the frightening part," said Amina Ansari, an employee at a power sector company, according to Reuters.