Top court accepts Mumtaz Qadri petition challenging death sentence

Published May 14, 2015
After these initial arguments, the apex formally adopted the case for a hearing in October. 
 —Reuters/File
After these initial arguments, the apex formally adopted the case for a hearing in October. —Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted for hearing a petition filed by Mumtaz Qadri — the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer — challenging the Islamabad High Court's decision to hand him the death sentence.

The hearing today included appeals by the counsel of the self-confessed killer to reduce Qadri's penalty as well as reject the government's plea to include the Anti-Terrorism Act in Taseer's murder case. A three-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa presided over the hearing.

Qadri's counsel Mian Naseer said that a trial court ruled a Rs100,000 fine and a double death penalty for his client. He contended that this is a blasphemy case, adding that Taseer had labeled the blasphemy law 'a black law'.

How can terming the blasphemy law and its use wrongful be blasphemous, Justice Khosa remarked today. He added that there is a difference between committing blasphemy and terming the blasphemy law as wrongful.

Qadri's counsel also added that this is not a case of personal enmity but it is about Shariah. Justice Khosa added that Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court and Federal Shariat Court are empowered to hear such issues.

After these initial arguments, the apex formally adopted the case for a hearing in October.

Read more: IHC upholds death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri

In its ruling on March 9, the IHC had rejected Qadri's application against his death sentence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) but accepted his application to void the Anti Terrorism Act's (ATA) Section 7.

Qadri, a former commando of Punjab police’s Elite Force, was sentenced to death for assassinating former Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market. Qadri said he killed Taseer over the politician's vocal opposition to the country's harsh blasphemy laws.

He had confessed to shooting Taseer dead outside an upmarket coffee shop close to the latter's residence in the capital on Jan 4.

He is now challenging the IHC's verdict on his death sentence in the country's top court.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

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