Salman Taseer had not been charged or indicted but Mumtaz Qadri decided he was to be judge, jury and executioner
The decision to uphold the death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri is being viewed by some analysts and commentators as a step in the maturation process of Pakistani state and society. The Supreme Court has struck down a plea which was seeking to revoke the death sentence awarded for the murder of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. The death sentence was first awarded by an anti-terrorism court and then challenged on grounds that are now determined as unsupportable. The Supreme Court further announced a short order restoring the order of the anti-terrorism court. Analysis to the effect that the Court order is somehow an indicator of the maturity of Pakistani state and society may perhaps be premature. The lawyers for Qadri were satisfied that he committed no offence by killing Mr Taseer — and there are, unfortunately, significant numbers of people who agree with that perspective. Indeed, lawyers themselves pelted Qadri with flower petals at one of his early court appearances and some religious groups have expressed similar sympathy for him.
However, the Supreme Court decision does speak clearly and emphatically for the rule of law. The rule of law has to be paramount even if individuals and institutions disagree with it — and while this newspaper does not support the death penalty, it does support and respect the rule of law. The decision also speaks of the courage of the members of the superior judiciary who in making this decision are quite possibly putting their own lives at hazard.
For too long, individuals and courts have been bullied into silence owing to the influence of violent extremists. This landmark decision signifies that we can’t allow such elements to dictate terms any longer and stifle debate on important matters. Mr Taseer had broken no law, not been charged or indicted, but Qadri decided that he was to be judge, jury and executioner. As the Supreme Court correctly observed at an earlier hearing “that way lies chaos”. It does, and the Supreme Court judged wisely.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2015.
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