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A debatable judgment

Published Mar 11, 2015 07:14am


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Qadri’s killing of then governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer is the very definition of terrorism.—AFP/File
Qadri’s killing of then governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer is the very definition of terrorism.—AFP/File

SALMAAN TASEER was murdered by an unrepentant Mumtaz Qadri in a deliberate, premeditated and ruthless manner for the vilest and most distorted of reasons. That makes Qadri a murderer who must be punished.

The Islamabad High Court hearing Qadri’s appeal did both the legally and morally correct thing in upholding Qadri’s conviction on Monday. Where the court appears to have unnecessarily created confusion and caused uncertainty about his ultimate fate is in its decision to set aside his parallel conviction under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Know more: ‘The court delivered half justice to my client’

In a single paragraph dealing with the anti-terrorism conviction — one paragraph among 47 that constitute the overall judgment — the court found that none of the prosecution witnesses (barring one), and neither the investigating officer nor the prosecution evidence, suggested that Qadri’s act amounted to an attempt to create panic, intimidate and terrorise the public, or to create a sense of fear and insecurity among the public. With due respect to the court, that is a very surprising and quite unsustainable finding.

Qadri’s killing of then governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer is the very definition of terrorism. It was an undisguised political act meant to send an unambiguous message of fear and intimidation to the public.

As the judgment itself notes, Qadri claimed that the murder of Taseer “is a lesson for all the apostates as finally they have to meet the same fate”.

In assassinating the Punjab governor, Mumtaz Qadri was not simply killing an individual, he was sending a message to state and society that only the particular version of religion and Pakistan that he and his supporters are in favour of ought to be the one implemented here — and anyone who deviates from that distorted, horrifying vision is deserving of death.

If that is not religiously inspired terrorism, then what is? Surely, the scores of individuals who have been celebrating Qadri’s act and are now welcoming the decision to strike down the terrorism conviction because it will allow them to openly and publicly venerate him and the hateful ideas he stands for only emphasise that the act of murder was not just against an individual, but was meant to distort society itself.

There is a further problem here. If Qadri’s murderous act in the name of religion is not terrorism, then what about killings on sectarian grounds and violence targeting non-Muslims?

The court appears to have unnecessarily embarked on a slippery slope with all manner of unpredictable consequences. Has, for example, the court unwittingly provided a ‘Qadri defence’ to religiously inspired terrorists who have so blighted this country in recent decades?

Finally, in unnecessarily tampering with the original judgment in such a high-profile case, has the court not reinforced the perception that the criminal justice system favours the accused over the victims? The original conviction should have been allowed to stand in its entirety.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2015

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Comments (34) Closed

Third Umpire Mar 11, 2015 09:53am

Absolutely a brilliant piece objectively written and encompassing all the angles possible. Hats off to you Dawn! Tolerance is a virtue long forgotten in our society. I wonder how can we expect the democratic project to sustain in our country in the absence of the most significant of its essentials: TOLERANCE!

Citizen. Mar 11, 2015 10:14am

@LARKANAVI, agreed totally. Our nation is held at gun point by those who wish to think they know, and others have to follow their dictates. This is the way fear is instilled in the mind set of the common folks. This state of affairs is totally unacceptable. If people are going to succumb to fear, then those who wish to force their agenda on others have won, this nation should never ever let this happen. It is the courts who should send a clear unambiguous message, not murderers, terrorists, thugs, extortionist, land grabbers and people of that sort. This nation is facing a crises of values, of morals, of state authority, versus the authority of the above type people, the state has to act, act firmly, act decisively. Our lives depend on the decisions the courts make and the way they are carried out.

m m amin Mar 11, 2015 11:23am

@Third Umpire

the verdict opens the door for pressurising the Taseer family for BLOOD MONEY deal. And the chance to get their hostage released

Aaqil Mar 11, 2015 12:32pm

@nida Qazi The nation has seen the power of fear and intimidation all along in this case. Future scenario : Now Salman Taseer's heirs / relatives will be intimidated to pardon the killer in exchange of money - blood money. Since no protection is provided by the state either to the prosecution officers / lawyers or to the family of the victim it is highly likely that intimidation tactics will succeed once again.

karachi Wally Mar 11, 2015 12:54pm

In the end at lease we see our courts getting strength. We need to support our institutions and back it up.

TTP challenge is huge, it has ISIS angle and so many other things. Let us get over this Qadri issue quickly.

Sami Mar 11, 2015 01:18pm

@Nida Qazi Strongly agree!!

disgusted Mar 11, 2015 01:41pm

@Third Umpire could you elaborate about "Tolerance" in this case?

Keti Zilgish Mar 11, 2015 01:55pm

This ruling is the beginning of a civil war in which the upper echelons of the armed forces have more to loose than the what the lower ones do.

Sajid Rabbani Mar 11, 2015 02:03pm

@Abdulla Hussain , Well said.

Keti Zilgish Mar 11, 2015 02:09pm

@concernedcitizen its not the leader that has to be replaced it is the system - a new one is required. Its better late than never to begin thinking about it.

shehriyar Mar 11, 2015 03:16pm

@zx people like abdullah hussain are just too many. I am actually surprised most of the comments here are reflective of the idea which is humane and civilized. Hats off to Dawn. At least some light is pouring through the cracks.

Mian Amir Hakim Mar 11, 2015 03:24pm

I fully endorse the writers views.

pakistani Mar 11, 2015 04:26pm

Good judgement we whole heartedly support it, Though it should have done long time back, Law should be swift brutal and quick for the betterment of society and coming generation of Pakistan.

AZZE Mar 11, 2015 05:05pm

Thank you Dawn for standing up for justice, for dignity of a human life, for rights of a person who was murdered in cold blood for speaking for vulnerable Pakistanis. As long as Pakistan has voices like yours, there is still hope in this land.

Naeem Mar 11, 2015 06:21pm

The killing in the name of religion will continue. This is not the Pakistan we want.

Loving the prophet is a necessary requirement of faith. Defending his honor is a sign of belief. This is done by following his teaching and practice, not by murdering in his name. This is what Mumtaz Qadri did and we made him a hero. How sad.

Burjor Rustomji Mar 11, 2015 06:22pm

@Nida Qazi. Fear and Intimidation is used by all who wish to control others in this blighted nation. Clerics, Political Parties of all shades, Law Enforcement Agencies, Bureaucrats, those in power, those not in power, down to school teachers. This is now an accepted form of coercion. When words fail, coercion begins, with threats, which is expected to bring in fear and followed by intimidation. This is because the state is not able to do what is expected of a state, its first and foremost duty to its citizens, which is to protect the life and property. When States fail in their duties, lawlessness is open to all who wish to exploit this void. This murder is a direct outcome of the state's complacency, its total failure to protect even a governor, by its very own body guards, what can be more complicit? If a governor is so very vulnerable, just think where you and I stand???.

Najam Saeed Mar 11, 2015 07:03pm

Excellent piece of journalism and great editorial. You hit the nail in the head. Qadri killed a man in broad daylight to defend his distorted version of Islam in the presence of several witnesses, set aside the laws of the land, confesses to the murder, and we are not only calling him a hero but support his version of Islam. The law must take its course, regardless.

A Malik Mar 11, 2015 07:10pm

100 % agree with you. Thank you Dawn for standing up and making a point.

Ali Patriot Mar 11, 2015 08:12pm

This is an instance where military court should be used and a speedy trial with results. We need to send an extremely strong message that terrorism in any shape or firm will be dealt with a strong hand and there will be no escape from justice. I hope we have a courage to take a stance in cases like Qadri.

Pompei Mar 11, 2015 08:30pm

Absolutely agree with the write up, a brilliant piece of analysis. I hope the Hon'ble Court sees the reason and amends its order immediately.

NAN Mar 11, 2015 08:49pm

Well written and argued editorial! MQ and his supporters are not willing to admit his crime and are not repentant.

ravi vancouver Mar 11, 2015 09:44pm

@Burjor Rustomji When arguments fail and your path is questioned. Instead of introspecting and changing opinion, people try to enforce their opinion by force on others this brings in breakdown of society, intolerance and terrorism spreads.

Fi Mar 11, 2015 10:13pm

As long as educated people will keep on harbouring the same thoughts as Qadri, there is no hope for this country.

Khalid Mar 11, 2015 10:21pm

There is "No Faith in Pakistan" whether it be political, religious or cultural.

Masood Mar 11, 2015 11:38pm

An excellent article. Do these demons think that we ordinary Muslims love the Prophet ofAllah sllhawslm any less? Their loathing for peace and tolerance is surely a greater insult to the Prophet sllhawslm.

Rizwan Mar 12, 2015 02:13am

Brilliantly written editorial. No doubt Mumtaz Qadri is a killer and deserve death sentence.

Nasir Mar 12, 2015 02:20am

I commend Dawn for publishing this article. It is also encouraging to see that majority of readers on this site are voicing their support to punish Qadri's actions. However, most readers on this website are highly educated and can appreciate the long term threat posed to the society if the justice systems lets Qadri off the hook. My concern is that majority of Pakistanis see Qadri as a righteous man and denouncing his action akin to blasphemy itself.

Mushtaq Mar 12, 2015 05:38am

@karachi Wally

Until the have the basic thinking right, the court will continue to keep making bad decisions as they have in the past. I do not have much hope for the future of these courts.

Agha Asad Raza Mar 12, 2015 06:23am

Well written and I totally agree that , " The original conviction should have been allowed to stand in its entirety."

Robinson Varghese Mar 12, 2015 07:23am

Salute you Dawn, you are second to none.

BRR Mar 12, 2015 09:27am

Looks like killing 100+ children is the minimum requirement to be called terrorist act, according to the court.

sabir hossain Mar 12, 2015 11:37am

Very well written comments and analysis of MQ's judgment by Dawn. I would like to ask if the assasination of Salman Tasser is not an act of terrorism then could somebody define what is terrorism. Is killing a person on ones own religious conviction and taking the law on its own hands exempts not an act of terrorism. What exactly was the motive of the Court to drop the charge of terrorism in their verdict in MQ's case.

Your opinion is shared by majority of your readers.

Basil Dogra Mar 12, 2015 01:19pm

Very Good arguments by the editor. Applause.

akbar hashmi Mar 18, 2015 06:03pm

@Sami what is your idea about the two muslims who were killed and burnt in lahore by cristians? are you in favor of people who took law in their hands and attacked at a woman? sharam name is akbar hashmi.