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memri
October 7, 2011 No.
4193

Sunni Organizations in Pakistan Protest Against Death Sentence For Assassin of Liberal Governor Salman Taseer


At a protest in Karachi on October 1, supporters of blasphemy laws shout slogans against the death sentence for Malik Mumtaz Qadri

In January 2011, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, a member of Pakistan's elite security team assigned to protect Salman Taseer, the liberal governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, shot him dead in the garrison city of Rawalpindi for urging reforms to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. The Punjab governor had campaigned for a presidential pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of four children sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

In March 2011, the Pakistani government's only Christian minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also shot dead in Islamabad over his calls for reforming the country's controversial blasphemy laws. Pakistan's blasphemy laws stipulate the death penalty for those committing an act of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad or other Islamic figures. Members of Pakistani religious organizations often take upon themselves to kill those who are accused of committing an act of blasphemy.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Governor Salman Taseer, admitted before a court in Rawalpindi that he assassinated Taseer. On October 1, 2011, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi sentenced him to death for the murder. Following the verdict, Sunni religious organizations in Pakistan have held protest rallies opposing the death sentence to Malik Mumtaz Qadri.

Pakistan's Blasphemy Law: "Use of Derogatory Remarks about the Holy Prophet of Islam – Carries the Death Penalty"


In Lahore, religious organizations hold a public meeting in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri on October 1, soon after he was given the death sentence (Image courtesy: Roznama Jang, October 2, 2011)

Of several blasphemy laws in Pakistan, Section 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) prohibits Ahmadi Muslims from calling themselves "Muslims" or preaching their faith. Ahmadi Muslims are legally declared as non-Muslims in 1974 by Pakistan for allegedly not believing Islam's Prophet Muhammad to be the final prophet.

The Section 295-C of the PPC carries the death penalty for committing an act of blasphemy against Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Following is a guide to various sections of the Chapter XV of the PPC, regarding the "Offences Relating to Religion:"[1]

"Section 295: Harming or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion

"Section 295-A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any section of society by insulting its religion or religious beliefs

"Section 295-B: Defiling the Holy Koran

"Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks regarding the Holy Prophet of Islam

"Section 296: Disturbing religious assembly

"Section 297: Trespassing on burial places

"Section 298: Uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings

"Section 298-A: Use of derogatory remarks regarding holy personages

"Section 298-B: Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles reserved for certain holy personages or places

"Section 298-C: Person of Ahmadi group calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith"

A report in the Dawn newspaper observed the following about the blasphemy laws:[2]

"Out of all these laws, only Section 295-C – use of derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet of Islam – carries the death penalty. Others carry various punishments, including imprisonment and fines.

"Section 295-C is different from other blasphemy laws in another respect. Section 196 (prosecution of offences against the State) of the Criminal Procedure Code bars courts from taking cognizance of certain offences unless the complaint is made on the order of, or under authority from, the government, presumably so that laws governing such offences are not misused.

"After Section 295-A was introduced in the PPC in 1927, Section 196 was amended to cover it as well. But such a course was not adopted when Section 295-C was introduced, thereby allowing the courts to take cognizance of crimes under this section without requiring the government's order or authority."

Judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah: "Individuals Cannot Be Given the Authority to Judge Someone an Apostate, [or] Infidel… Individuals Cannot Be Allowed to Execute the Punishment"


Members of Sunni Tehreek protest in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Jang, October 3, 2011)

The anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi found Malik Mumtaz Qadri guilty on two counts for the murder of Salman Taseer. ATC Judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah dismissed the assassin's defense pleas, which invoked Islamic religious sentiments and argued that the accused was provoked by Taseer's calls for reform in blasphemy laws.[3]

According to a Pakistani media report, Qadri, who has confirmed that Taseer's calls for reform in blasphemy laws were his motive for the assassination, thanked Allah upon hearing the death sentence and held an unrepentant look.[4]

While delivering the sentence, judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah said:[5]

"A proven blasphemer is wajib-ul-qatal (liable to be killed). He cannot be forgiven. Only the Holy Prophet (PBUH [peace be upon himself]) himself can forgive him. However at this stage two questions arise. Firstly, can a person who is leading a sinful life be termed an apostate? Secondly, if he is deemed an apostate, then who will execute him?

"Obviously individuals cannot be given the authority to judge someone an apostate, infidel, or non-Muslim. Moreover, individuals cannot be allowed to execute the punishment on such persons because it will pave the way for anarchy, turmoil, restlessness, and lawlessness in society. Therefore the defence plea in this regard is not helpful to the accused…

"The statements of the governor about blasphemy laws were published in 2010, and the murder was committed on January 4, 2011. Further, it was not the plea of the accused that the deceased made these remarks in his presence. The accused himself put a provocative question to Taseer as he was coming out of a restaurant in Kohsar market [in Rawalpindi, thereby seeking provocation] and it was not the deceased who provoked the killer."

Photos of Mass Protests in Pakistani Cities

Following the October 1 court verdict, Islamic religious organizations in Pakistan have held protests in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri. Over the past several days, there have been continuing protests in various Pakistani cities against the death sentence given to Qadri. Of these, major protests are being led by Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi Sunni organization which campaigns against any changes to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Following are some images:


In Karachi, on October 1, a Pakistani boy protests in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Karachi, Sunni Ittehad Council (a coalition of Barelvi religious organizations) organizes a protest rally in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 3, 2011)


In Rawalpindi, members of Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi organization, tear a poster of liberal former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, after hearing of the court verdict against Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, members of Sunni Tehreek protest against the death sentence to Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Express, October 3, 2011)


In Karachi, on October 1, a Pakistani youth and member of Sunni Tehreek holds a picture of Malik Mumtaz Qadri. The Urdu text reads: the Prophet's Caravan (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


On October 2, members of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat salute the "bravery" of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Express, October 3, 2011)


On October 1, supporters of Malik Mumtaz Qadri hold a protest rally in Karachi, demanding release of the assassin (Image courtesy: Roznama Jang, October 2, 2011)


On October 2, police in Lahore disperse the supporters of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, Pakistan, October 3, 2011)


In the Pakistani city of Hyderabad, on October 1, members of Sunni Tehreek set fire to tires to express their anger against death penalty to Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Karachi, Pakistanis express support for Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, Pakistan, October 3, 2011)


In Lahore, members of Fidayan-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Pakistan (Suicide Bombers of the Movement for the End of Prophethood) protest against the death sentence. Fidayan-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Pakistan is a coalition of religious organizations who advocate that Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet of god (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Islamabad, students belonging to Jamia Ghausia Student Federation shout slogans in support Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 3, 2011)


In Lahore on October 1, members of Majlis Ulema-e-Nizamia Pakistan, an organization of Islamic clerics, protest against the death sentence to Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)

At the Lahore Press Club, members of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat organize a protest meeting in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 3, 2011)


In Karachi on October 1, supporters of Malik Mumtaz Qadri turn out in streets to express support for the assassin (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


On October 1, outside the Rawalpindi jail, a supporter of Malik Mumtaz Qadri cries on hearing the news of death sentence (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In the town of Attock, members of Sunni Tehreek organize a protest meeting in support of Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 3, 2011)


In Karachi, supporters of Malik Mumtaz Qadri clash with police (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 3, 2011)


A Pakistani cleric weeps after hearing the news of death sentence in Rawalpindi (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Karachi, leaders of Sunni Ulema Council and Sunni Tehreek lead a protest rally against the death sentence to the assassin (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, October 2, 2011)


A supporter of Malik Mumtaz Qadri cries after hearing the news of death sentence in Rawalpindi (Image courtesy:
www.tribune.com.pk, accessed October 3, 2011)


In Lahore, people protest against the death sentence to Malik Mumtaz Qadri (Image courtesy: Roznama Ummat, Pakistan, October 2, 2011)

Endnotes:

[1] www.dawn.com (Pakistan), February 15, 2011.

[2] www.dawn.com (Pakistan), February 15, 2011.

[3] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), October 2, 2011.

[4] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), October 2, 2011.

[5] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), October 2, 2011.