Mumtaz Qadri has been sentenced for the assassination of the former Governor Salman Taseer. On 11 November 2010 a session court in Sheikhpura sentenced Asia Bibi - a Christian woman - for Blasphemy under section 295/C of Pakistan's Islamic law. This decision sparked a debate on the misuse of the Blasphemy law.
On 20th November Salman Taseer went to Sheikhupura jail to meet Asia Bibi. There he termed blasphemy law as a “black law” and received application of pardon from Aasia Bibi in jail and promised publicly to officially forward it to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari saying that the president was legally and constitutionally empowered to pardon Asia who is poor, innocent and illiterate. Salman Taseer on various occasions called it the "Black Law" he also publicly supported Asia Bibi. Taseer met Asia Bibi and got the application for
On 23rd of November, 2010 Salman Taseer in a television interview said that the country was being criticized in the whole world because of Ziaul Haq’s black law and Asia Bibi was innocent. He said that he had put forward the pardon request of Asia Bibi and President Zardari has assured him that Asia will not be hanged.
On the same day Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat issued a decree that Salman Taseer termed blasphemy law as a black law therefore he no more remains a Muslim. They urged the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice and remove Taseer from his slot. Pir Afzal Qadri threatened that there were many Ghazi Elim Din Shaheeds, the man who killed a Hindu writer for blasphemy, therefore the rulers should realise the sentiments of the nation. He even said that neither prime minister nor president has any power to pardon Asia Bibi.
On the same 23rd November Majlis-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat announced that one who will pardon a blasphemer will also no more remain a Muslim. The Governor House received threats of bomb blast and its security was beefed-up.
On November 24 Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz organised protests throughout the country against the act of Salman Taseer to save Asia Bibi. Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool’s central leader Qari Sheikh Yaqoob demanded death punishment for Salman Taseer along with Asia Bibi. National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony’s Shafique Raza Qadri announced that one who helps a blasphemer is also equally responsible.
On November 25, Governor Salman Taseer said that he went to meet Asia Bibi for the sake of humanity only and the blasphemy law was man-made and not God-given, adding that his meeting with Asia Bibi was being politicized. Taseer clarified that no Muslim could even imagine blasphemy, adding that the issue important for him was reviewing the blasphemy law.
On December 7, office-bearers of Milli Majlis-e-Shariah said that the governor Punjab, by meeting Asia Bibi, has himself committed not only the contempt of court but also blasphemy. They warned the rulers not to amend the said law and also asked President Zardari not to pardon Aasia rather let the case decided in the court.
On January 4, 2011 Taseer was shot dead by one of his own guards in Islamabad for demanding changes in the blasphemy law.
On October 1st 2011 Mumtaz Qadri was sentenced to death.
Haroon Barkat Masih, Chairman Masihi Foundation a human rights organization leading Asia Bibi`s case issued a statement, "Death is not something to celebrate, we celebrate justice.....Qadri’s sentence, unfortunate as it is when we consider the sanctity of human life. We support the work of the judiciary, it is a very courageous decision on behalf of the court. Let’s not rejoice in the pain this man shall suffer but let’s rejoice over the fact that for once, at least, justice has prevailed For the first time in Pakistan, a person involved in a high profile murder has been condemned. Our constitution gives us the freedom to express our views freely. If i say the blasphemy law is immoral and should be repealed, does this mean someone should come and kill me? "
Catholic Bishop Rufin Anthony of Rawalpindi/Islamabad said, "most exegetes believe that the Quran (8:72) points out that jihad, even against those who were opposing the Prophet Muhammad and oppressing Muslims, was not permitted in violation of a treaty. In effect they agree that a promise or trust must be honored. Qadri broke the trust through deception. This is the reason why State and Religion should be separated because Qadri is defending himself by falling back on the Pakistani flawed constitution which is based upon a specific religion. I agree with Masihi Foundation that Death is not something to celebrate. I appreciate the Foundation`s role for Asia Bibi`s case. it is important that the rule of the law prevails in the Country for a tolerant society."
Catholic Bishop Ijaz Inayat of the Karachi Diocese said, "we are saddened that the exremist groups have praised a murder on the religious grounds. The extremist elements are destroying the human values and leading the society towards insanity. Salman Taseer`s son who was abducted from Lahore will be used as a bargaining chip in exchange with Mumtaz Qadri. The abductors have already offered 200 million as a "Diyat", other wise they will use Shahbaz Taseer to get Qadri released. The extremist views have been promoted by "Salafi Movement" ( Wahabi Movement started by Zia Ul Haq) and sponsored by Saudia Arabia. The Afghan Taliban have declared themselves as Salafi State. We condemn the extremist ideology. An organ of the state was targeted, as a guard Salman Taseer was Mumtaz Qadri`s "Ameen" ( a responsibility, in Islam when a person is given some responsibility or something, he has to unsure that thing stays unharmed.) But Mumtaz Qadri broke the trust through deception, where is this permitted in Islam? The Pakistani Authorities need to revisit their policies, it sad that these basic issues were not addressed in the APC ( All parties Conference). I second the statement made by Masihi Foundation that our constitution gives us the freedom to express our views freely."
Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan from Islamabad said, " Masihi Foundation`s statement that Death is not something to celebrate is an appreciable statement, taking a human life is condemned in every religion. I am glad to see that there are sill some sane voices in the society."
A religious scholar Hussain Ahmed Malik from Islamabad said " Taking a human life is against humanity, I am glad to see that an organization "Masihi Foundation" is spreading a very positive message that human values must be respected and the constitution of Pakistan gives every citizen the right to express his / her views freely."
Representative for Breaking Bonds International Alex Baxter said, " we recommend that people speak up against the injustice and work towards a tolerant society just as the prince of peace has taught us, bearing the burdens of our neighbors denying ourselves. We appreciate the fact that Masihi Foundation is working along the lines for spreading the peace and equality. Human lives are very precious, we can achieve and do so much by going on a right path, the perfect example set by our creator."
Representative Life for All Rizwan Paul said, "Life for All speaks about hope, we support Masihi Foundation for their stance and the cause. Our eyes are set on the goal when we see in our life time where justice will prevail. Instead of cutting someone`s life short, we all will promote life for all where every single person living on this planet earth will be the ambassador of peace and promote life for all."
Rodrick Samson is Spero correspondent in Pakistan.