ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court acquitted on Monday the self-confessed killer of then Punjab governor Salman Taseer of charges of terrorism, but upheld his conviction under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Mumtaz Qadri, Mr Taseer’s gunman and former commando of Punjab police’s Elite Force, had assassinated Salman Taseer in Islamabad’s Kohsar market on Jan 4, 2011.

On Oct 1 that year, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi sentenced Mumtaz Qadri to death on two counts — one under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the other under Section 302 of the PPC.

Qadri filed two separate appeals against his conviction.

A division bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, dismissed the appeal against conviction under the PPC, but accepted the plea seeking removal of terrorism charges.

The 64-page IHC judgement said: “The conviction of appellant recorded by the learned trial court under Section 7 (a) of the Anti-Terrorism Act is set aside; the appeal to this extent is allowed and appellant is acquitted from the said charge, whereas conviction and sentence recorded under Section 302 (b) of the PPC is upheld and appeal to this extent is dismissed.

“It is amazing to note that appellant (Mumtaz Qadri) took protection and rights guaranteed by the constitution, but deprived the deceased (Salman Taseer) of all constitutional guarantees. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the murder of Salman Taseer at the hands of appellant Mumtaz Qadri was pre-planned, cold blooded and gruesome.

“Murder intent and preparation is manifest from the prosecution evidence and the stance of appellant himself.

“Mumtaz Qadri emptied the whole magazine containing 28 bullets at the body of deceased Salman Taseer.

“The principles of mitigating as provided in the case law are not applicable to the present case.

“The appellant may be a pious man in his personal life, but admittedly neither he is a scholar nor a Qazi and it is the job of the courts to go in the depth of the words and then to declare that words attributed to a person amount to commission of offence of blasphemy or not.

“The Holy Prophet (SAW) was the blessing for whole mankind and instances where Prophet (SAW) forgave the contemnors were more in number than the instances where the contemnors were done to death.”

The court expressed astonishment over the petitioner’s allegation, without any proof and merely on perception, that Salman Taseer had committed major sins and said this act could not be termed Islamic and moral. If Taseer had made any irresponsible statement about the blasphemy law, he should have been taken to court, it added.

The judgment said: “Much was discussed about the motive of Mumtaz Qadri, but to our mind the act and stance of Qadri itself exhibit the motive. In the dictum laid down by the superior courts, it is settled law that motive or no motive is irrelevant when the case is proved without any shadow of doubt.”

TERRORISM CHARGE: About the charges of terrorism, the court observed that it was not applicable because the incident did not create panic among the public. However, the court is convinced that the ATC had jurisdiction to hear this matter.

The IHC verdict said: “There is no cavil with the proposition that supreme law of the state is Islamic law and all of our laws whether procedural, substantive or penal are to be interpreted in the light of the injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but from whatever angles it is considered neither the Islamic law nor the law of the land gives any justification to the act of the accused (Qadri) and searching for any justification for the act of the accused would defeat the purpose for which Islamic Republic of Pakistan was established and the social contract amongst its people in the shape of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was promulgated resulting in anarchy, lawlessness, and rule of might is right.

“In this particular case, the complainant, the investigating officer, learned trial court, learned High Court and the Supreme Court apparently joined in one personality i.e. Mumtaz Qadri who had done away with all provisions of the criminal law and the Constitution which guarantee a free trial to every citizen.

“He passed judgement and assumed the role of assassin and executed the sentence at the spot. It is pertinent to note that the state being the guardian of the rights of the people introduced the legislation for the protection of the respect and dignity of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and inserted Section 295-C by virtue of Act III of 1986 in PPC. It has provided the sentence of death.”

The court referred to a judgement in the case of Mohammad Mehboob alias Booba which said blasphemy cases were too sensitive and police in such cases should entrust investigations to two gazetted officers.

The court said the law envisaged capital punishment for a blasphemer, but this needed to be proved as in the case of Ayub Masih who had been exonerated by the apex court after the prosecution could not prove the accusations.

About the arguments that Salman Taseer had provoked the accused, the court said no conversation had taken place between Taseer and Qadri before the latter executed the former.

At the time of the Jan 4, 201,1 incident, Qadri was at least eight feet away from Taseer, as proved through evidence.

JUSTIFYING MURDER: Referring to the contention of defence counsel that the deceased was Mubah-ud-Dum like any other contemnor and that the appellant was justified in murdering him, the court noted that after the migration to Madina, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had become head of the state having all legislative, executive, judicial and military powers, beside being the Messenger of Allah Almighty.

The verdict said: “It is evident that neither the appellant Qadri nor his learned defence counsel are oblivious of the fact that in their endeavour to provide shelter to the criminal act of the appellant by referring to the judgments of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), they have confused the reality that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was not only a human being but was also a Messenger of Allah.

“Even during the early years of post-migration era, the history did not quote any example that any contemnor was done to death on the order of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) or the Holy Prophet ratified any individual act of any Muslim killing any contemnor. It was the era after Ghazwa-i-Badar that Islamic state fully established its ground and became formidable power in the Arab Peninsula.

“In this period, there are examples of killing of the contemnors on the orders/judgments of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the ratification of the individual acts of the Muslim murdering the contemnors. But it has already been observed that at that time the Islamic state was in a state of war with the Jews who were expelled from Madina and they were not only guilty of the individual contempt of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but they were also rebels of the state.

“In view of the above discussion, it is evident like the broad daylight that the act of the appellant of murdering the deceased can never be justified on the touchstone of the decisions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the settled principle of the Islamic law about the subject of blasphemy.

“Admittedly the appellant is neither the chief executive nor head of the state, and not even a judge. He was a soldier in the uniformed force, under the legal obligation to obey the orders of his superiors and beside this there was no other duty of the appellant. In the preamble of the Constitution it is mentioned that the people of Pakistan have vowed that the people would be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality and they have also vowed that independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured with the aim that people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honoured place amongst the nations of the world and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity.”

The judgment cited various verses from the Holy Quran and Ahadith and incidents from Islamic history.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2015

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