Unfortunately, Qadri has a strong argument
Most stories, real or fictional, carry an antagonist and a protagonist. What sets the whole thing apart is the definition of who is who, something that varies depending on the person you speak to. Salman Taseer’s murder is a prime example of this very phenomenon.
When news of Taseer’s murder was flashed across national TV back in 2011, the reaction was sadly divided. There were sections that rightly spoke against the gruesome murder, but unfortunately, there were sections that defended the murder, speaking in favour of the murderer Mumtaz Qadri, using the country’s ugly blasphemy law as an excuse.
January 4, 2015, marked the fourth year since the incident took place, but despite countless developments in other parts of Pakistan’s socio-political web during the same time, this particular case is still collecting dust.
In a bizarre development, important documents pertaining to the case suddenly disappeared from the Attorney General’s (AG) office. Qadri’s appeal was due around the same time at the Islamabad High Court. While it is incorrect to believe that copies of the documents will not be produced again, the more pressing issue is why it is taking so long for this case to reach its conclusion.
Legal compulsions can be understood. They exist in every system and a system as fragile as Pakistan’s is going to have even more loopholes. Socio-political compulsions, unfortunately, can also be understood as far as this case goes. It is obvious that certain sections of Pakistan’s Muslim majority population consider Qadri a hero and his actions justified. A combination of both legal and socio-political compulsions makes for an extremely worrisome mix. Most of the blame here lies on socio-political life, since it makes up the very fabric the legal structure is based on. However, having said that, it should not cover the inherent weakness of Pakistan’s judicial system.
Building on the euphoria of the lawyer’s movement against Pervez Musharaf, Iftikhar Chaudhry was, by far, the most powerful chief justice in Pakistan’s history. However, power and responsibility do not always go hand in hand, and that was Chaudhry’s biggest shortcoming. His time in office revolved around more muscle flexing and less substance. Whereas one had hoped that the judiciary would become independent and apolitical, it ended up becoming extremely political within an inbuilt vendetta against the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Swift justice was replaced by selective justice and responsibility was replaced by revenge.
The division between the judiciary and the executive became pencil thin as the latter went out of its way to impose its authority on matters left, right and centre. When Chaudhry bid adieu in 2013, he left behind a judiciary that still lacked substance at its core – the same judiciary that has made a mockery of Taseer’s murder case.
While it is unfair to put the blame completely on the judiciary, it is also unfair to expect the Pakistani society to become more open-minded with time and not leave any room for the celebration of cold blooded murder. Societies do not change with the time alone. It takes a change in narrative, a change in thinking process, a change in political outlook and a change in the very definition of right and wrong. It takes the complete annihilation of the thought process that defends murderers like Qadri. It takes the complete annihilation of religion from public sphere.
Prolonging Qadri’s case only adds weight to the well-established notion that blasphemy is an untouchable issue in Pakistan. In a society where religion and public life were not interlinked, Qadri would face justice. In a society where religion and public are deeply interlinked, Qadri has a strong argument unfortunately. The strength of Qadri’s stance can be judged from the fact that ever since the blasphemy laws were implemented during Ziaul Haq’s regime, no government that followed has made a concrete effort towards removing or even revisiting them. Pervez Musharraf diluted the blasphemy laws, but that was a futile exercise.
There are hushed voices in government circles against the blasphemy laws, but they lack commitment. No sitting government in Pakistan will take up the task of removing the blasphemy laws, or for that matter even the anti-Ahmaddiya laws. No one wants to face the heat. No one wants to take the risk.
The day a sitting government in Pakistan removes the blasphemy laws and destroys every legal mode for murderers like Qadri to go free is the day this country will take a turn for the better. Everything before that is only talk. Everything before that reeks of indifference and non-seriousness towards things that truly matter.
And for that man who throw petals at Qadri, the one who puts garlands on him, hugs him and kisses him, congratulating him for having brutally murdered a person is no less of a murderer himself.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.