Pakistani Judge Sentences Man to Death for Murdering Female Minister

A man accused of shooting a provincial minister because he thought women should be kept out of high office was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death in a Pakistani court Tuesday, officials said.

Mohammed Sarwar was arrested on Feb. 21, shortly after he shot and killed Zil-e-Huma Usman, the Punjab Minister for Social Welfare, in Gujranwala, about 120 miles southeast of the capital, Islamabad.

Tariq Iftikhar, a judge at Gujranwala's anti-terrorism court, convicted him Tuesday of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging, court official Abdul Wahid said.

It was not immediately clear whether Sarwar would appeal.

Police have said that Sarwar confessed to shooting Usman and told investigators that he had been targeting "fashionable" women he believed were "spreading obscenity" in Pakistani society and also that he believed that women were unsuited to holding high office.

Police said he was also a suspect in the killing of several prostitutes.

On Tuesday, prosecutor Shahid Muzaffar said the man pleaded not guilty during the trial, but that prosecutors had presented "solid evidence" to prove his responsibility.

Usman was a provincial leader of the ruling PML-Q party, which supports President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Police said she had arrived in Gujranwala to address a gathering of her party when Sarwar shot her in the head at close range. She died hours later in hospital.