ISLAMABAD: The lawyers who thronged the court in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salman Taseer, do so in hope of a ‘heavenly reward’ as they believe defending the convict is part of their ‘religious obligations.’
They were there on a chilly Tuesday morning, in all shapes and sizes and ages – thin, plump; old, middle aged and young; dressed in crumpled gowns and with straggly beards or clean shaven, clad in smart winter coats.
There were so many of them that the small room at the Islamabad High Court could not accommodate them all and many had to be content to wait outside in the cold. Those inside were hardly more comfortable as they were pushed and shoved as they stood balancing themselves against the wall, in a room that grew warm and humid while it drizzled outside.
Among those who attended the hearing of an appeal filed by Qadri against his conviction by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) were member Punjab Bar Council Sajjad Akbar Abbasi, former presidents Lahore High Court (LHC) bar association, Rawalpindi, Taufiq Asif, and Ahsanuddin Sheikh, and former president Islamabad bar association Naseer Kayani.
All of them were there to assist the lead counsel for Qadri - former chief justice of LHC Khawaja Mohammad Sharif and retired Justice Mian Nazir Ahmed, who have come out of retirement to defend Qadri.
As a lawyer present there commented: “These two ‘defence’ lawyers are senior to the judges hearing this case.”
But it appeared that most of those present were doing their ‘religious duty’.
When Dawn asked a lawyer why he had associated himself with the case, Mohammad Waqas Malik replied: “Ghazi Ilam Din, who killed a ‘blasphemer’, was represented by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.”
When another lawyer reminded him that Ghazi Ilam Din was convicted and hanged, Malik shrugged and said: “It was during the government of non-believers and the judge who convicted Ilam Din was also a non-Muslim.”
For them, standing for Mumtaz Qadri is a religious obligation
Similar views were also expressed by the former chief justice of LHC Khawaja Mohammad Sharif after the court’s proceedings.
In the courtroom, it seemed as if there was a dominant narrative.
Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry, former vice-chairman of the Punjab Bar Council, said he returned Rs10 million that the previous PPP government had offered and refused to become a prosecutor in the Taseer murder case in 2011. And he did this, he said, because he is also a Qadri supporter.
Sajjad Abbasi, member Punjab Bar Council, told Dawn that his (Abbasi’s) legal and religious obligations compelled him to support Qadri.”
A senior office-bearer of the IHC bar association in a lighter tone whispered that “the prosecutor in this case will get a US visa for sure especially if he succeeds in getting Qadri’s appeal dismissed.”
“It would become difficult for the prosecutor to live in the country after this case.”
Others went so far as to say that the judge that had earlier found Qadri guilty had already migrated despite the fact that someone insisted that he was still in the country.
Former president of the LHC bar association, Rawalpindi, Ahsanuddin Sheikh, who is representing former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in the Rs20 billion defamation suit against Imran Khan, added: “Qadri has the right to engage the lawyer of his choice. I am assisting Khawaja Sharif in this case.”
Advocate Sheikh remained in the courtroom till the end of the proceedings and left only when Khawaja Sharif allowed him to.
Rao Rahim, a young Islamabad-based lawyer, claimed that 33 lawyers were representing Qadri and scores others were supporting him.
He added that at the first hearing on January 27, at least 90 lawyers had attended the proceedings while this time around the number was less.
A security official deployed in the IHC said the number of Qadri’s lawyers was not more than three dozen.
However, as compared to January 27, the strength of Qadri’s supporters outside the IHC building had nearly doubled. They had gathered on the service road adjacent to the IHC much before the proceedings began. Carrying the flags of Pakistan Sunni Tehrik (PST), they stayed there till the end.
Qadri’s brother Malik Mohammad Safeer was also among them. He said his brother had done nothing wrong. “He (Qadri) is satisfied in jail and has asked us not to visit him in the prison.”
Earlier, a young lawyer had said in the courtroom: “He is approaching the court for the legal route. Otherwise, look at what happened in Bannu. People broke into the jail to free the inmates.”
Published in Dawn February 4th , 2015