by Zulfiqar Ahmad
ISLAMABDAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, as well as restored a terrorism clause dropped by Islamabad High Court (IHC) in March.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Dost Muhammad Khan heard two appeals: one moved by Advocate Nazir Akhtar on behalf of Mumtaz Qadri, and other moved by the federal government against the IHC verdict.
“The criminal application filed by the convict [Qadri] is dismissed and the criminal appeal filed by the state is allowed, the conviction and sentence allowed by the trial court [ATC] are restored,” declared Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. The IHC in its March 9 verdict had rejected Qadri’s application against his death sentence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) but accepted his application to void the Anti Terrorism Act’s (ATA) Section 7. In its short order, the bench of the apex court allowed the government application to re-include the terrorism charges against Qadri.
During the hearing, the counsel for Qadri requested the bench to award lesser sentence to their client as he had no personal grudge with Taseer. Qadri’s counsel argued that the accused was a straightforward man who had a justification for killing the former governor, admitting that whatever he did was in accordance with the dictates of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), because he was convinced that the victim had committed blasphemy by calling the blasphemy law “a black law”.
“We have to look into whether the deceased [Salmaan Taseer] indeed committed the act of blasphemy or he commented adversely on the effects of the blasphemy law,” observed Justice Dost Mohammad Khan. Given the prevailing constitutional and legal set-up, Justice Dost Mohammad observed: “Can the accused be given the right to judge on his own cause and commit murder in uniform of a person who was under his protection, especially when there is no evidence of him having committed blasphemy, save a few press clippings”.
Qadri’s counsel former Justice Mian Nazir Akhtar contended that something had happened just before Taseer was killed since none of the other elite force personnel present at the scene reacted to Qadri’s action. He added that punishing a blasphemer was a religious duty enjoined on everyone. The counsel argued that in blasphemy cases, words also matter though intention to commit a crime may not be as relevant.
These questions need to be focused upon, Justice Dost Mohammad emphasized, adding that the impression he had gathered from reading the facts of the case was that the deceased governor was talking about the defects in the blasphemy law, which were sometimes misused for personal benefit. In any democratic government, the nation has the right to criticise any law made by the parliament because it was made by representatives of the people, Justice Khosa observed, and illustrated his argument with the example of the 21st amendment.
In a statement released today, Sunni Tehreek (ST) has decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) in regards to the apex court’s earlier decision to uphold the death penalty for Mumtaz Qadri under ATA laws. “The death penalty awarded to Mumtaz Qadri is against Shariah and the Constitution of Pakistan,” claimed the statement from ST. The statement was issued by Naeem Raza, incharge of ST’s media cell and quoted Muhammad Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, chief of ST.
Qadri, a former commando of Punjab police’s Elite Force, was sentenced to death by an ATC in October 2011 for assassinating former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market. Qadri said he killed Taseer over the politician’s vocal opposition to blasphemy laws of the country. He had confessed to shooting Taseer dead outside an upmarket coffee shop close to the latter’s residence in Islamabad on January 4, 2011.
Source: Business Recorder