Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of the former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, has been sentenced to death twice by the ATC (Anti Terrorism Court) Saturday morning at Adyala jail, Rawalpindi.
On 4th January Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer’s elite force guards, shot and killed the governor for his views on the blasphemy law outside a restaurant in Kohsar Market, Islamabad.
ATC Justice Syed Pervez Ali Shah, said "slaying the late governor was a heinous crime and there is no justification to it."
Qadri had admitted before the judge that nobody intimidated him to murder the former governor. Qadri, a constable in the Punjab Police and a member of the Elite Force, tried to justify his act of assassination by stating that he killed Salman Taseer for supporting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was accused of 295 /C and was sentenced to death. However Taseer believed that she had been wrongly convicted of committing blasphemy. After what Qadri claims was a brief verbal altercation, during which Taseer refused to back down from his stance, Qadri claims that he lost his temper and shot the governor in anger.
According to Qadri’s statement, he had approached the late governor on January 4th and tried to talk to him about his public support for Asia Bibi and his advocacy to abolish the blasphemy laws. The defence for Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of the slain governor Salmaan Taseer, has adopted a simple strategy to save the remorseless killer. Taseer’s statements were “unbecoming of a Muslim” and therefore Qadri, a devout Muslim, could not control his emotions and resorted to an instantaneous act. As a precautionary measure, the court hearing the case was also told that Taseer’s statements could have inflamed the passions of any Muslim which means that even if Qadri had not committed this heroic act, someone else would have.
Mumtaz Qadri`s lawyer Raja Shujahur Rehman, told the media outside Adyala Jail that "my client had also submitted a written statement of 40 pages, referring to 11 Quranic verses, 28 quotes from Sunnah and several other eminent Muslim jurists with reference to Islamic jurisprudence. The prosecution raised no objection over the Qadri`s statement, therefore the court validly admitted this statement and made it a part of the court record."
Qadri’s lawyer presenting his act as sudden provocation, automatism in legal terms, meant as a defence by negating the existence of actus reus, the actual act of committing a crime. This is supplemented by referring to religion, religious teachings and the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad not just to ground the automatism plea but to appeal to the court’s own conscience and piety. Implied in this is also a veiled threat that some issues stand above and beyond the law and institutional hierarchy and must be treated on a touchstone other than that which placed Taseer in a position of authority. Ironically, this effect is to be achieved by referring to Taseer’s alleged conduct as violative of the blasphemy law and the inability or unwillingness of the state to proceed against him which, in this case, forced Qadri to act on his own. The inevitability of Taseer’s murder is argued by the defence as “if Qadri had not killed him, someone else would have”.
Far from showing any remorse, Qadri got into a sermon like diatribe against the governor, attempting to justify his actions by quoting passages from the Holy Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad as well as precedents in Islamic law.
Shujaur Rahman, one of Qadri’s lawyers, meanwhile, tried to smear the late governor’s personal character in a manner that was so disturbing as to prompt the judge and the prosecution lawyers to ask how such ad hominem attacks on the governor’s private life were relevant to the case.
“He was a governor, a public office holder. He should not have acted like that and expressed views against the public sentiment,” said Rahman, apparently feeling he had adequately justified his actions.
It should be clear that Qadri’s lawyers cleverly relying on chunks of law even as their underlying argument is grounded in the justification of the act as being religious and supra legal and therefore not to be judged on the basis of legalities.
The problem with this defence is not just its logical inconsistency but also the fact that Qadri’s act, from what we know, does not fall under the automatism plea. He murdered Taseer in cold blood and with meticulous planning. He was waiting for an opportunity and when he found it, he unleashed his fire power on a defenceless, unsuspecting man.
Justice Syed Pervez Ali Shah after completing arguments, sentenced Mumtaz Qadri to death twice under 302 PPC (Pakistan Penal Code) and 7,8 ATA ( Anti Terrorism Act).
According to the legal experts Qadri has the right to appeal within seven days against the verdict. Qadri`s lawyer Rehman said that, We will appeal against the verdict at the High Court.” Mumtaz Qadri has been shifted to the death cell in the Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi.
The people gathered outside the jail to support Mumtaz Qadri, protested against the decision. They chanted slogans in Qadri`s support, calling him a “Hero”. The decision has sparked protests by the religious parties on the Murree road in Rawalpindi. The religious parties have announced to launch country wide protests against the deicison and support Qadri.
Catholic Bishop of Rawalpindi / Islamabad Rufin Anthony said, “ Despite the pressure from the religious groups this is a very brave decision by the ATC. For the first time in Pakistan a person involved in the high profile assassination has been sentenced. Salman Taseer an advocate of the reforms in the Blasphemy law was silenced for his views, he took a stand for what he believed was right. Taseer didn’t offend anybody and nor did he used offensive words, he just asked for repelling a law that was put in place by a dictator and has caused a suffocating environment not just for non-muslims but Muslims of this country, equally. We should uproot the cause too which instigated this man to take this heinous action. Qadri was celebrated as a hero, this insensitive and extremist ideology should be discouraged. Respecting people`s faith and emotions is a human quality, everyone has the right to follow his / her faith. It is not necessary for a person to agree with other people`s believes. We all need to work together towards a tolerant society. "