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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has regretted that by raising arguments on the merit of the case and the sentence already confirmed, an attempt was made to re-argue the entire case on a review petition by the counsel representing Malik Mohammad Mumtaz Qadri, an Elite Force commando who had assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer for allegedly committing blasphemy.

“A review is surely not a rehearing of the main case and all contentions have already been attended to in the Oct 7 judgment under review in some detail,” the apex court said in a five-page detailed judgment explaining why its three-judge bench had on Dec 14 rejected the review petition filed by Mumtaz Qadri through his counsel Mian Nazir Akhtar.

“No error patent on the face of the record was pointed out by Qadri’s counsel against the Oct 7 judgment,” said the verdict, authored by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed the bench which had dismissed the review petition.

Mumtaz Qadri, who is undergoing a jail term in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala jail, was convicted of killing Salman Taseer at a market in Islamabad on Jan 4, 2011.

On Oct 7, the Supreme Court had accepted the federal government’s appeal seeking restoration of the Oct 1, 2011, capital sentence handed down by an anti-terrorism court and partial overturning of the Islamabad High Court’s March 9 endorsement of Qadri’s plea to annul Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, though the high court had upheld the death sentence under the Pakistan Penal Code.

The government had approached the apex court for including the terrorism charges as a second offence in the punishment.

The detailed judgment said that since the main review petition had been dismissed by the apex court, the application seeking interim relief regarding suspension of execution of the petitioner’s sentence of death had also lost its relevance.

The Supreme Court had, in its Oct 7 verdict, refrained from going into the matter of interpretation of the injunctions of Islam, especially relating to blasphemy and its punishment, the judgment said. The same was expected of the Islamabad High Court and, therefore, observation made by the high court in its order of March 9 be treated as not legally binding as a precedent, it added.

In the Oct 7 judgment, the order recalled, the apex court had already held that the petitioner had failed to prove through any legally admissible evidence that the victim (Salman Taseer) had committed blasphemy. It was also held by the apex court in the main judgment that Articles 203 G and 230 of the Constitution, the interpretation of the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) fell within the exclusive domain, power and jurisdiction of the Federal Shariat Court, the Shariat appellate bench of the Supreme Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology. And the apex court’s jurisdiction in such matters is limited to application of the principles where they are settled.

Referring to the arguments of Qadri’s counsel that the apex court should be guided by the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, the order explained that this contention overlooked the fact that in the considered opinion of the court, the counsel had failed to discharge the onus on him to prove through legally admissible evidence the alleged commission of blasphemy by Taseer and thus there did not arise any occasion for seeking guidance from the injunctions of Islam regarding the concept of blasphemy and its punishment.

The apex court also regretted that in a separate application through the review petition, the counsel had pleaded for adjudication of some very important religious and legal questions, but no such questions were identified in the application. Thus the application also stood dismissed, the detailed judgment observed.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2015