Why I will not celebrate Mumtaz Qadri’s execution

Published: March 2, 2016


Supporters and family members of Mumtaz Qadri sit near his body after his execution in Rawalpindi, Pakistan February 29, 2016 PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS

The rumours had been floating around since the beginning of the year, but not many outside a close-knit group really knew when it would happen, if at all. Then, before his crusaders could get a whiff of what was on the cards, his family was called in one last time, and at some ungodly hour before dawn on Monday, the patron saint of religious violence – Mumtaz Qadri  was hung at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

As a recap for those of you who don’t know (and I suspect there will not be many): the man in question killed Salmaan Taseer – the Governor of Punjab whom he had sworn to protect as a bodyguard – over five years ago because of his stance on reviewing Pakistan’s oft-misused blasphemy laws. Mumtaz Qadri gloatingly stood around to be put behind bars, but support for him poured in from every corner of the country as he sat around with that signature smug look. His case took several controversial turns in this time — not least when the Islamabad High Court dropped charges of terrorism against him. Ultimately, though, his sentence was upheld by the apex court, much to the outrage of those venerating him as a ghazi.

Mumtaz Qadri was, by every definition, a cold-blooded killer. So why, then, will I not celebrate his execution? In the straightest words: because an execution is not something to be celebrated. Whether Baloch youths dumped off helicopters, beheaded army officers in Waziristan or guillotined terrorists in Rawalpindi — there is no heart-warming festivity to be found in death.

Bear in mind that this is not a debate about whether the moratorium on the death penalty should be restored or not (which I am personally in favour of, but let’s save that for another time). This is about the abhorrent bloodlust that has taken root in our society.

Hanging bodies – to whomever they may have once belonged – are not a medieval spectacle for frolicking. They should not be a source of pleasure; they are definitely not a sign of progress, but could be indicative of us suffering from a collective ailment. And it is not something that Pakistan, well into the 21st century, should aspire to, either. If we visualise a just, humane, progressive society, we are going to have to start believing that violence will always, and only, beget more violence. A desensitised and bloodthirsty population is not the hallmark of a civilised nation (I’m looking at you, Saudi).

Now, while I understand the need to give in to passionate emotions at a time like this – especially for those who have personally suffered from such atrocities – how about instead of wanting to rip more people limb from limb and parade them in gory victory, we observe a moment of silence. Not for respect, but for introspection.

While there was one man who put 28 bullets in Salman Taseer’s body, there were tens of thousands gushing to the streets in their zealous mania yesterday. Don’t jump for joy, Pakistan. Deliberate over why monsters like Mumtaz Qadri are allowed to germinate in your country at an alarming rate in the first place. Ask yourself why the bar association in our capital led the charge in calling for the protests, or why our information minister was assailed by angry “clerics” at an airport, or why – and this one is my favourite – the head of the largest Islamic party in Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami, personally led Mumtaz Qadri’s funeral prayers in absentia.

We must ask tough questions of our representatives in the government, armed forces, bureaucracy, judiciary, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves. Why do we consistently receive impressive, yet unverifiable, statistics from the battlefront in the tribal areas, while the man who openly lends allegiance to our opponents, Abdul Aziz, is allowed to thrive in Islamabad? Why have we promoted Mumtaz Qadri from “ghazi” to “shaheed” while his mentor and inspiration, Hanif Qureshi, roams scot-free? Why do we condemn the terrorists’ means but can’t bring ourselves to publicly denounce their ends?

For all those concerned (you know who you are), it has been said time and time again, and I will repeat it for good measure: Outwardly battling terrorism while inwardly nurturing extremism will only make things worse — also known as the curious case of fighting the symptoms while ignoring (at best) the disease.

Perhaps we could exert more pressure on our representatives in Parliament to retake control of the narrative of religion that has been so carelessly handed over to any cleric with a red mosque. Maybe they could cut short their nap to make some advances on the National Action Plan (NAP) by, say, actually regulating madrassahs as planned, or not allowing banned outfits to resurface under different names. Stricter and swifter action could be taken against individuals like Mumtaz Qadri who take the law in their hands under the cloak of religiosity, while somebody could once and for all earnestly tackle the dismal state of our school curriculum.

Fortunately or otherwise, being citizens of Pakistan, it falls on us to remind our representatives of their duties when they forget them and push them to completion. Otherwise, at least as individual members of civil society, promoting a culture of tolerance, human dignity and plurality might be a better use of our time than drawing sadistic pleasure out of frenzied calls for blood. That’s what the Taliban do.

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Danyal Adam Khan

Danyal Adam Khan

A freelance journalist, writer and actor, he tweets as @DanyalAdamKhan (twitter.com/DanyalAdamKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.