GUJRANWALA, Feb 20: Punjab Minister for Social Welfare Zille Huma Usman was shot dead by a man described by police as a religious fanatic when she was going to address an open court here on Tuesday.

Police arrested the accused, Maulvi Mohammad Sarwer Mughal, and seized a pistol he was carrying. The accused had been charged with killing four model girls and injuring a dozen others some four years ago, and he was acquitted by a local court for lack of evidence.

Witnesses said the 36-year-old minister, mother of two minor boys, was being showered with rose petals by workers of her party at the Muslim League House on the Asgher Ali Road when the accused fired on her.

She was taken to the District Headquarters Hospital with critical head injuries. Later, she was shifted to the General Hospital in Lahore by a helicopter where she died soon due to excessive bleeding. PML workers and the minister’s guards overpowered the accused and handed him over to the Civil Lines police.

Quoting the accused, who ran a hardware shop, DIG (operations) Khadim Hussain Bhatti said he was waging a jihad against anti-Muslim forces. “Women can’t become rulers in Islam,” he is reported to have been said.

But he was acquitted by a court. A case was registered against the accused on Tuesday night under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

AFP adds: Officials said the accused killed the minister because “she was not wearing Muslim clothing”.

“He killed her because she was not observing the Islamic code of dress,” local police officer Nazir Ahmad said.

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