“Even God doesn't plan to judge a man till the end of his days, why should you and I?”
On January 04, 2011, Mumtaz Qadri emptied his gun killing Governor Punjab, Salman Taseer in the capital city of Pakistan. Qadri in his religious frenzy assuming the role of the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner murdered the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer for raising his voice for a helpless woman convicted under the blasphemy law. Later Mumtaz Qadri confessed to the killing and was awarded death penalty.
Recently, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has appealed to the office of the Presidency to grant amnesty to Qadri claiming public interest. We, the concerned citizens of Pakistan strongly oppose the presidential pardon to Mumtaz Qadri. Such an act would encourage vigilante justice which can do irreparable harm to the already fractured and traumatized Pakistani society. A fundamental requirement of any pardon is an expression of remorse or regret from the felon. Mumtaz Qadri instead of showing any remorse has shown pride in his wanton and despicable act. If pardoned, the act could have grave repercussions for Pakistan.
Taseer’s murder is a link to a chain of events which dates back to 1986 when the blasphemy law was introduced by the military dictator Zia ul Haque, in order to appease religious parties and ensure their support to his rule. Since then it has helped many to settle personal, sectarian, religious and political scores. In 1990, this law was further strengthened by the Federal Shariat Court declaring death penalty as the punishment for blasphemy.
In 1993, an illiterate Christian minor along with two accused of writing blasphemous content on the wall of a local mosque in a village near Gujranwala were attacked by the mob killing one, on the spot and injuring the others. Trial was shifted from Gujranwala to Lahore where the trial court awarded death sentence to the accused. A year later, Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High Court overturned the court verdict and acquitted the accused. Justice Bhatti was gunned down in Lahore in 1997, and no arrests have been made till date. In 1994, Muhammad Farooq accused under the blasphemy law was dragged out of the local police station and stoned to death by a charged crowd. In 2001, in a Lahore jail, Yousuf Ali, a convict under the blasphemy law was killed by a fellow prisoner with the active help of prison staff. In 2004, a police constable while guarding a man accused of blasphemy, at a local hospital in Lahore killed him, using a brick cutter.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”. The difference between Mumtaz Qadri and others is only in the choice of the weapon. None thought twice before killing, showing no respect of human life. Qadri symbolizes many things that have gone wrong in Pakistan including total disregard to the rule of law in the name of religion; disregard to professional conduct, responsibility, and discipline. This self-declared war between religion and its real or imagined challengers is further encouraged by the complete failure of state to regulate society through constitutional, legal and administrative means. In most cases the state adheres to a policy of appeasement to the religious right which has taken over the narrative. The support enjoyed by radical groups, from law enforcement agencies, has resulted in the exploitation of this law for undue discrimination against minorities.
Qadri was accorded a heroes’ welcome by a large section of the Pakistani society, which is a dangerous trend and represents our readiness to undermine and destroy the state and its institutions, including the courts, in the name of controversial beliefs and edicts. This is also a grim reminder that Pakistan is heading towards more chaos and anarchy subsequent to increasing religious fanaticism and extremism.
Salman Taseer and Justice Bhatti both believed that those accused of blasphemy are citizens with constitutional guarantees to be tried fairly and within the ambit of the state’s institutional and judicial writ. Both represented the state at a very high level – one as a high court judge, other as a Provincial Governor; neither had committed any blasphemy and had recommended transparency and procedural reforms in the registration and trial of blasphemy cases.
It seems our society, our state and its institutions have completely failed to adhere to any constitutional norm and their inaction and silence is deemed as support and encouragement to these acts of violation of fundamental right, violence, and mob rule. Raising a voice for those convicted for blasphemy under flimsy evidence and those killed by mobsters and target killers for real or perceived religious insults has become a life-threatening exercise few are willing to take up.
Families of Salman Taseer, Justice Bhatti, and many who have lost their lives due to these senseless, bigoted and discriminatory practices still await justice from our society, state and its institutions.
There is nothing more destructive and frightful than ignorance in action!
This petition closed about 1 year ago
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