Qadri executed, but his ideology lives on
The aftermath of Mumtaz Qadri’s execution was obvious and I am sure the government would have done all its calculations before taking its final decision.
Although all the legal process and procedures have been fully observed, the head of the council of Islamic ideology (CII) chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani said that Mumtaz Qadri’s act — though driven by religious sentiments — was illegal because he had taken the law into his own hands. He added that no one should take the law into their own hands, yet the response from society is scary.
Hundreds of thousands of people follow the same ideology as Qadri –believing that Islam permitted them to avenge blasphemy – and attended his funeral. Following his execution many took to the streets to protest against the decision in rallies organised by religio-political groups throughout the country.
I am sure the government was aware there would be such percussions, as when Qadri was sentenced to death, not just extremists, but members of the legal fraternity opposed the verdict, surrounded the court and demanded the resignation of the judge, Pervez Shah. Eventually he had to flee the country for his security and that of his family.
Qadri himself, and his supporters, strongly believed that whatever he did was according to the teachings of Islam, and that he hadn’t committed any crime. Instead they saw it as if he had performed his moral and religious duty in an Islamic state. This impression further strengthened when two ex-judges of the high court started representing him in court to prove him innocent, and several references from the Holy Quran and Hadiths were submitted supporting the belief that Qadri’s action was according to his Islamic belief. Recently the Milli Yakjehti council demanded the honourable release of Qadri and even warned that his execution would trigger events like those of 1977.
Qadri was not the first person who was religiously motivated to take the law into his own hands. He killed the then governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, while he was on duty to guard him. But the law was amended by General Zia and the Shariat court has made the death penalty mandatory. We have a long history of mob justice, vigilante killings, attacks on churches, the burning of Christian towns, and the burning alive of innocent people. Several people charged under the blasphemy law have even been killed in police custody and prison, but the government has failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. Subsequently the culprits see the inaction as tacit approval from the authorities and continue to create havoc, and terrorise minorities, with impunity. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the decision by the authorities to not hold the perpetrators to account was deleterious, and we are now bearing the consequences.
Despite the Supreme Court’s judgement that nobody has the authority to assume the role of a judge, jury and executioner after someone is accused of blasphemy, I have doubts that this will stop anyone from taking the law into their own hands in the future.
Sadly I think that Qadri’s execution will not change the mindset that has been developing for years. Already we have seen many attend Qadri’s funeral, many going to his grave to venerate his martyrdom, and many may have promised to follow in his footsteps – a poignant truth.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa of the Supreme Court of Pakistan said that criticism of the blasphemy law does not amount to blasphemy, but there are still many who believe that killing a blasphemer is their moral and religious duty. Unfortunately this ideology has permeated in our society and extraordinary wisdom and courage is needed to root it out.
I am not aware of the government’s intentions or strategy behind this decision, as many had believed that Qadri would be pardoned.
Despite of all this people will continue misusing the blasphemy law to settle their petty personal disputes, as the government still seems indecisive. I remember the case of Naimat Ahmer, a Christian school teacher who was stabbed to death in broad daylight in 1992 in the compound of Faisalabad´s District Education Office. Twenty-year-old student Farooq Ahmed, instead of running away from the crime scene, stayed there with his dagger and proudly admitted the killing, because he believed he had performed his moral and religious duty. His action was glorified and he was treated as a hero of Islam in prison.
There is also the case of Samuel Masih who was accused of having thrown waste against the wall of the mosque and charged under the blasphemy law. He was killed by police constable Faryad Ali, who was assigned to safeguard him while he was admitted to Gulab Devi hospital for treatment of tuberculous.
Ali later declared it was an obligation of his faith to kill Samuel. “I have offered my religious duty for killing the man.” He also said,” I am spiritually satisfied and ready to face the consequences.”
I don’t know what happened to his case, or where he is, but his ideology is still prevalent, whether it is seen in Christians being burnt alive in Gojra, or in Kasur in the brick kiln.
The mindset has to be condemned from the outset and authorities need to take appropriate steps to stop it, but the government and politicians have both failed. Instead those who raised their voices against this growing ideology were threatened with death.
I am not sure if the Prime Minister has some remorse over the decision to not appeal against the decision of the Shariat court with regard to the mandatory death penalty on the request of Ismail Qureshi in 1991. But it is never too late.
The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has already taken some unexpected decisions despite criticism from the religious and religo-politcal groups, and still seems positive. I feel that he may be able the make up for some of the damage caused by the government. Although it is not easy, he is the only prime minister who would dare to take some steps to defeat this ideology.
It is also necessary to bring the blasphemy law to parliament and initiate the debate to amend it appropriately or at least introduce some safeguards to stop its continuous misuse. There is also need to take immediate and stringent action against the hate-mongers who provoke and incite violence in the name of religion.