Qadri sentence: Justice served – for now

Published: October 2, 2011
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A supporter of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, weeps after the court announced the death sentence for Qadri, outside Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi on October 1, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

When will the government start taking action against all those who accuse and punish innocent people for blasphemy? PHOTO: REUTERS A supporter of convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri cries after hearing Qadri's sentence while taking part in a demonstration outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, October 1, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS Supporters of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri burn tyres, after the court announced the death sentence for Qadri, outside Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi on October 1, 2011. PHOTO: AFP A supporter of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, weeps after the court announced the death sentence for Qadri, outside Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi on October 1, 2011. PHOTO: AFP
The verdict is in. The assassin will hang. Justice seems to have been served. Well, not quite yet.

Almost ten months to the day when the former Punjab governor was gunned down, the lone gunman has seen his bubble burst. His ‘divinely inspired’ mission wasn’t so divine after all. He will die the way a real blasphemer would have been put to death.

Except that in his case, thousands of righteously misguided individuals will take to the streets to push for his release from prison. After all, guilty or not, his followers have already made it quite clear that for them, the only just decisions are ones that go in their favour, and these aren’t clerics by the way, they’re lawyers.

Specifically, Namoos-e-Risalat Lawyers Forum Pakistan, who, just three days before the verdict, announced that there would be “massive retaliation” if the self-confessed assassin was convicted.

So we have a group of lawyers who outrightly refuse to accept the rule of law in the killer’s corner. Fortunately, mainstream lawyers have already rejected the claims of this group.

The following day, the World Ahl-e-Sunnat Organisation’s central amir tried to make something of a centrist appeal to support the killer, highlighting that even the father of the nation had defended the murderer of an alleged blasphemer in 1929, showing that even the secular father of the nation would have defended this self-righteous executioner.

Now the incident itself did happen, but the clergyman left out some very important background facts.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah did defended Ghazi Ilmuddin in 1929, after the latter assassinated a Hindu publisher, Raj Pal, for permitting the publication of Rangeela Rasool, a book with many derogatory references to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

What the gentleman failed to point out was that the man who would become Pakistan’s first governor-general was hired for a fee to represent Ilmuddin. He was not working pro bono. It was just another case, albeit a controversial one. More importantly, he lost the case, and faced harsh criticism for taking a stance against Hindu-Muslim unity (he would not advocate the two-nation theory until much later).

Later, the same cleric gave the example of a judge who had declared two young Christian boys not guilty of blasphemy. The judge was shot dead by another fanatic. The cleric claimed to have met with the killer in prison and claimed that the man’s actions were justified because his face was full of Noor (heavenly light).

So they can’t see heavenly bodies in the sky, but they can see heavenly light in people’s faces.

Fortunately, to nullify the claim that the murder was divinely inspired or religiously permissible, a few days back, Ejaz Haider cited Qazi Abu Bakr Jassas in his Ahkam al-Quran, pointing out, “Jihad, or implementing hadd cannot be permitted without the authority of the ruler, in modern times the state, not the clerics and certainly not by a semi-literate policeman.”

For secondary confirmation, there is always the opinion put forward by Aslam Khaki, a prominent Islamic jurist who told Syed Ali of Express 24/7, “Many zaeef (unauthenticated) traditions are usually cited by certain scholars to justify vigilante justice, however the Islamic system not only promises due legal process to every citizen but also allows suspects to repent and seek forgiveness if they so wish.”

But who will explain this to the thaekaydars in this land of confusion?

Full credit goes to the judge for upholding the dignity of the justice system, in spite of veiled public threats and the historic precedent of the final outcome for many whose rulings on such cases went counter to the sentiments of hardliners.

The decision is almost certain to be appealed, and whether or not higher courts uphold the ruling remains to be seen. What has already been seen though, is protesting mobs damaging public property, making various vile proclamations, and essentially doing everything to remind the public that they will kill or maim anyone who calls them violent bigots.

But then, one must remember that according to the aforementioned religious group, and even the killer’s lawyer, the assassinated politician was responsible for his own death. The argument being that someone or the other would have killed the politician.

That would be true, if one were to believe the convoluted interpretation of his statements as relayed by extreme right. However, take out a few minutes to look up and actually read what he said, while keeping the case of the ‘blaspheming’ village woman in mind, and re-examine the extrajudicial verdict against the late governor. Keep in mind that a false accusation of blasphemy legally merits the same sentence as that which would have come had the accusation been true.

Now comes the real question, the answer to which can only be provided by the one party with the right to declare anyone a blasphemer and punish him or her accordingly.

When will the Government of Pakistan start taking action against those, who without any authority, accuse and punish innocent people for blasphemy?

Not just those with famous victims, but those who live and die without making the front page.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011. 

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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