Social media takes lead amid unspoken ban on Qadri coverage

Published: March 1, 2016

Amid an unspoken blanket media ban on Mumtaz Qadri, social media has taken the lead in reporting protests as tens of thousands of supporters of the convicted killer gathered for his funeral on Tuesday.

Thousands of policemen were deployed at main junctions and sensitive buildings in Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, officials said, including along the route set to be taken by Qadri’s funeral procession.

Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri executed

Supporters cheered and threw flowers at the casket of the bodyguard who turned his gun on late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011, Reuters reported. Police blocked off roads to Liaquat Bagh park in Rawalpindi but thousands arrived on foot.

In one video, supporters of Qadri are seen harassing media men in Islamabad. A group of stick-wielding men are seen chasing a cameraman down before snatching his equipment and smashing it. The same crowd is also seen damaging a media van parked in the area, while hurling abuses at media channels.

Twitter trends in Pakistan also showed a grim picture with five out of 10 trends either praising Qadri or protesting against the government’s decision to hang him. With thousands in support of the convicted killer, the government has not taken any direct action to arrest any of the protesters.

To make matters worse, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid was cornered by Qadri supporters at Karachi airport Monday night. In a video posted on social media, the information minister was seen on the receiving end of vitriol by Qadri’s supporters. The minister had to be escorted by security personnel when one of the supporters threw a shoe at his head.

The government’s vague stance on Qadri-related media coverage has frustrated many on social media, with many believing Pakistan’s media regulatory body (Pemra) has urged media channels to limit coverage of the protests due to public support for the National Action Plan.

The tweet by Pemra was the only ‘official’ warning and guideline floated by their official Twitter account. The move was heavily criticised by some on social media:

However, with the blanket ban in place, the media were left in the lurch as enraged protesters damaged DSNG vans and beat up some media personnel while raising slogans against the press.

Many have also highlighted how the PML-N-led government is still playing it safe when it comes to Qadri’s supporters despite taking the arguably tough decision to go ahead with the execution.

Qadri, a police bodyguard to Taseer, shot the liberal Punjab governor 28 times at an Islamabad market in 2011. He said he was angry at the politician’s calls to reform the blasphemy law.

The most incisive commentary on Mumtaz Qadri’s execution

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the country, and Qadri was hailed as a hero by many conservatives eager to drown out calls to soften the legislation.

Critics say the law — which carries the death penalty — is largely misused, with hundreds languishing in jails under false charges, AFP reported.

Analyst Hasan Askari has said that Islamabad, in deciding to proceed with the execution, had weighed the danger of mass violence against the need to “wash away the suspicion” of sympathy for militancy.

City gridlocked for over two hours

Thousands protested in cities across Pakistan on Monday after authorities announced the hanging had taken place early that morning.

But with security stepped up at flashpoints across the country of some 200 million, most dispersed peacefully.

“Police have been heavily deployed across the capital today,” a police official in Islamabad told AFP.

“We have manned all the main junctions close to the procession route and sensitive buildings,” he said, adding that up to 3,000 officers were on the streets.

Capital’s major roads to remain blocked today

All schools and universities remained closed for the day after shutting early Monday, AFP reported.

A police official in Rawalpindi said similar numbers were deployed there, including hundreds brought in from other districts as well as paramilitary Rangers forces

Liaquat Bagh, the park in Rawalpindi where the funeral ceremony will be held, is tinged with political significance: it is where Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951, and the site of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in 2007.

“He lives! Qadri lives!” chanted supporters who surrounded the coffin and threw flowers. “From your blood, the revolution will come!”

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Gurion
    Mar 1, 2016 - 3:19PM

    The silent moderate peaceful majority, right?Recommend

  • J
    Mar 1, 2016 - 3:46PM

    Who gave the permission to hold the funeral prayers of a convicted murderer at Liaqat Bagh on such short notice?Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Mar 1, 2016 - 3:56PM

    Could he not have been laid at rest with OBLRecommend

  • M.S.
    Mar 1, 2016 - 4:22PM

    Black sheep in civilian administration has made it a public event but thanks to our army and General Raheel nobody has dared to break the law. Recommend

  • Fahim
    Mar 1, 2016 - 5:11PM

    Funeral doesn’t need permission mr. J for jealousRecommend

  • maarige munir
    Mar 1, 2016 - 5:31PM

    50,000 people in funeral(according to BBC)….well thats a huge numberRecommend

  • Tyggar
    Mar 1, 2016 - 5:41PM

    Great! now we have another martyrRecommend

  • Mar 1, 2016 - 5:59PM

    Who’s the idiot who allowed the burial at Liaquat Bagh? Why??Recommend

  • chengez k
    Mar 1, 2016 - 6:13PM

    Two wrongs never make one rightRecommend

  • Sunny
    Mar 1, 2016 - 6:52PM

    This is why americans threw OBL’s body into sea, the same should pakistan govt had done this violence would have been prevented..Recommend

  • jb
    Mar 1, 2016 - 6:54PM

    @Gurion: If it wasn’t, you’d know. Plain mathematics.Recommend

  • Javed Afridi
    Mar 1, 2016 - 8:00PM

    We can’t stay away from idol worshipping. It’s in our blood. Now we’ll have another baba to add to thousands across the country and all this in the name of ONE, Allah Almighty.
    Seeing Qadri, I wonder if all the other babas were pious in their lifetime or won the status for some insane logic of their own.Recommend

  • darakshan_aftab
    Mar 1, 2016 - 9:08PM

    Flowers and deep love to martyr Mumtaz QadriRecommend

  • PakPatriot
    Mar 1, 2016 - 9:23PM

    refrendum should be conducted by government for awarding Nishanay haider to this Martyr..!!Recommend

  • Gh
    Mar 1, 2016 - 10:26PM

    50,000 for the funeral. At such short notice speaks volumes.

    Mark my words, this is the beginning of the end for the Sharif government.

    He has deeply hurt the sentiments of the silent majority. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what his (Nawaz) own son in law had to say on the matter.

    You can be against Qadri all you like, it will not change the views of the majority. Recommend

  • tanvér
    Mar 2, 2016 - 1:31AM

    great people never dieRecommend

  • Point
    Mar 2, 2016 - 1:54AM

    I wish Raheel shareef sees and realizes its not KP or Karachi but Punjab which needs full operation!!Recommend

  • Mulla Jeevan
    Mar 2, 2016 - 3:07AM

    Liberal class of Pakistan needs to start respecting the laws of Pakistan and its constitution or they are free to leave the country, move elsewhere. If they continue to disrespect the laws of Pakistan, they should be tried for treason.Recommend

  • Commentator
    Mar 2, 2016 - 3:41AM

    This is sadening to see how many people support extremism. Pakistan is going backwards and with this kind of attitude from majority of Pakistanis, Pakistan will not be a peaceful country for any religion!Recommend

  • Shah
    Mar 2, 2016 - 4:29AM

    Govt should have endured a quick and quite funeral and buried the body at a regular graveyard. Recommend

  • Disenchanted
    Mar 2, 2016 - 9:09AM

    Just when you think Pakistan is moving towards a brighter future, the ugly truth comes out – ten thousand strong. The problem is not that there is a massive number of extremists out there, because there are just as many – if not more – progressive moderate minded people.
    The problem is that the former are willing to die and kill for it, the latter are busy actually making a difference.

    What these tens of thousands of people don’t understand is that devotion to religion is not about the symbolic value of legislating such skewed laws- that is the easy way out. It is about loving the religion enough to ACTUALLY practice it and stand up for the oppressed.

    If you really love your religion, you don’t show it by implementing blasphemy laws which in the absence of disincentives for false accusations are easily misused to settle petty scores and personal differences. You certainly don’t go ahead and defend/martyrise someone who murders someone who calls for reforms of these laws. If you do these things, like Pakistan has, you become an architect for a social construct that systematises oppression with legislated intolerance. No, if you really loved your religion, you’d be out there EMULATING its teachings. You would get your self up and help the oppressed. You’d go out there and visit Asia in jail. You’d go out there and advocate for minority rights getting crushed under the culture of extremism. You’d go out there and shed light on the prevalence and tragedy of honour killings – you might even get an Oscar for it. You would draft legislation that would aim to remedy the atrocities that have stemmed from the evidentiary hurdles rape victims have to go through in your country. In fact even if all you do is live your daily life- go to work or get an education to provide for the ones you love- without harming others, thats already enough. Recommend

  • Fahim
    Mar 3, 2016 - 1:16AM

    One of the most peaceful protestRecommend

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