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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court rejected on Monday a petition seeking a review of its Oct 7 restoration of death sentence awarded by an anti-terrorism court to Malik Muhammad Mumtaz Qadri, an Elite Force commando who had assassinated on January 4, 2011, then Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer on blasphemy charges.

The review petition was dismissed by a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa with the observation that the petition could neither establish errors floating in the judgment nor blasphemy cha­rges against the former governor.

The review petition was moved by Advocate Mian Nazir Akhtar on behalf of Mumtaz Qadri, undergoing prison term at the Rawalpindi Adiyala Jail. He had asked the apex court to constitute a larger bench to consider the review petition. The counsel has been pleading for lesser punishment since the convict had no personal enmity with Mr Taseer.

Legal observers believe that the only avenue left for Qadri now is to file a mercy petition before the president, which can bring reprieve if accepted.

While rejecting the review petition the apex court also dismissed the convict’s request for a larger bench with an observation that Qadri had confessed to have carried out the assassination at all stages of the case and had been arrested from the crime scene. The convict had assassinated Salman Taseer outside his residence adjacent to an upscale market in Islamabad.

Later, the apex court in its detailed judgment of Oct 27 held that the issue involved in this case is not as to whether anybody is allowed to commit blasphemy by defiling the sacred name but the real question involved is whether a person is justified in killing another person on his own on the basis of an unverified impression or an un-established perception that the other person has committed blasphemy.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2015