Taseer’s assassination: The legal basis for incitement to murder

Published: January 8, 2011
What role did clerics and talk-show hosts play in contributing towards incitement to kill Taseer?

What role did clerics and talk-show hosts play in contributing towards incitement to kill Taseer?

KARACHI: In the weeks preceding the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, there was a frenzy of activity against him. Rallies were held, his effigies were burned and fatwas were issued, declaring him a ‘blasphemer’. One man had even offered to pay a bounty of Rs20 million for anyone who would kill Taseer. Religious political parties, including the Fazlur Rehman faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, had joined in the chorus against Taseer. Its secretary-general Maulana Abdur Ghafoor Haideri had reportedly termed Taseer a ‘blasphemer’, equating his opposition to the blasphemy law with the act of committing blasphemy.

The self-confessed assassin of Taseer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri publicly admitted that he killed Taseer because he termed the blasphemy law a ‘black law’ while the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has credited the role of religious clerics in influencing Qadri’s act.

While the man who offered a reward for Taseer’s murder has been arrested, people like MNA Sherry Rehman are still being threatened. A pamphlet distributed by the Tanzeem-e-Islami in Karachi on Friday, which advertises a rally on January 9, mentions Rehman’s role in submitting a private member bill proposing amendments to the blasphemy law and states that such an act has “provoked the religious honour of Pakistan’s Muslims”.

Rehman was reportedly given a 16-member security detail but there are only a couple of policemen stationed outside her residence.

Many have also pointed to the role of television talk show hosts who accused Taseer of carrying out a pro-western agenda and said that because of a fatwa against him, he was no longer valid to hold public office. The participants of one talk show, televised live a few hours after Taseer’s assassination, seemed to condone the murder by saying the late governor’s statements against the blasphemy law and support of Aasia Bibi was wrong.

The creators of this environment that preceded Taseer’s assassination by a member of the Elite Force squad can be charged, according to senior lawyer Khwaja Naveed.

While Pakistan does not have a law about incitement to murder, the Pakistan Penal Code does have a section about abetment (section 5) which has been used in many cases to prosecute people on the basis of oral and circumstantial evidence. For example, the person who allowed Qadri to be on Taseer’s security detail, knowing he planned to assassinate him, could be proven as having abetted the act of murder.

Similarly, if Qadri names anyone as having directly instigated him to commit the murder, they could also be prosecuted as abettors.

However, while a direct link between these is essential, it is also possible to prove incitement. For example, where TV talk show hosts are concerned, a case can be built on the basis of their programmes where they made statements that created an atmosphere that was conducive to Taseer’s murder.

The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997 covers these areas. For example, Section 6 states that terrorism means the use or threat of action where “the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic cause”.

Actions of terrorism include: “Involves the doing of anything that is likely to cause death or endangers a person’s life” and “incites hatred and contempt on religious, sectarian or ethnic basis to stir up violence or cause internal disturbance.”

The ATA also includes the ‘prohibition of acts intended or likely to stir up sectarian hatred’ which comprise the use of threatening words, abuses and behaviour, the distribution of written and visual material that could incite sectarian hatred as well as possession of written and visual material with the intent of distribution and display. The Pakistan Penal Code also includes punishments for defamation and criminal intimidation.

According to Naveed, “A parallel can be drawn to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; where an environment was created and calls were made for him to be killed. The common factor is that both Pearl and Taseer were killed by religious extremists.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • M.Khan
    Jan 8, 2011 - 10:26AM

    All those who incite violence should be held accountable. Television hosts and so-called clerics are equally responsible for the murder of Taseer. The entire hate-mongering atmosphere in Pakistan needs some serious attention.Recommend

  • Danish
    Jan 8, 2011 - 11:07AM

    i wish our legal system was strong enough to charge people for incitement. it’s ironic that lawyers were chanting slogans in favour of the murderer and disrupted court proceedings. we are far far away from a mature legal system.Recommend

  • Jan 8, 2011 - 11:18AM

    While Mr. Taseer did not do any act of blasphemy in any shape or form, he was, in fact, very insensitive and went so many extra miles which appeared to be a desperate attempt to appease Western powers. Would he have paid any heed to Asia Bibi’s plight if foreign pressure was not involved? Like any typical politician he would have been shrugged it off. If there is extremist side of religious groups, liberals are equally extremists and insensitive, a fact which threatens even the moderates who despite being moderate strongly identify with Islam and whatever flawed teachings they get of this perfect religion. Mr. Taseer should have taken the legal passage to get Asia Bibi out of her dire situation in stead of jumping the system and being hyper-actively provocative. I pray for Mr. Taseer and hope that Mr. Qadri, his killer, and everybody else involved face the proper form of Justice for cold blooded murder of a man who was innocent of any crime under blasphemy law.Recommend

  • Jan 8, 2011 - 12:15PM


    justice in pakistan? forget it. the chief magistrate would rather take a suo moto action on some missing clerk than this travesty of justice!

    and the media talking heads who participated in creating this frenzy…they think they are above the law too….

    squeeze them and they will cry for freedom to spread hatred!Recommend

  • ali
    Jan 8, 2011 - 2:29PM


    Jinnah and Iqbal were just as supportive of Ghazi ilmudeens murder. Do you condemn their support of Ghazi too? They justified, supported and even defended him. Iqbal eulogized him in his poetry.

    Muhammed Iqbal placed the body in the grave with tears in his eyes and said: “This young man left us, the educated men behind [in status].

    We have been taught this in local pakistani schools (not the prepie A level O level Schools). How can you blame a lot who have been taguht this in goverment sponsored schools all thier lives.

    saba did you do FA/FSc/matric or O Levels and A Levels?Recommend

  • ali
    Jan 8, 2011 - 2:31PM

    I see a growing divide between those taught Iqbal in the Pakistani board FA/FSc/Martic educated people and the A-Level O Level graduates. Seems our society is in for a bigger divide.Recommend

  • Jan 8, 2011 - 4:07PM

    It is highly outrageous to assume fatwas as incitement for murder or assassinations. Altair Bin Qadri acted alone and on his own. He was a delusional individual just like many others in this hypocrite nation where they have used Islam as a cover up for personal exhilaration. Recommend

  • SNA
    Jan 8, 2011 - 6:25PM

    Ghazi killed a Hindu while Qadri killed a Muslim.
    Do NOT contextualize the Allama or the Quaid in today’s time because we all know who called who Kaafir-e-Azam and who would be on whose side. Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Jan 8, 2011 - 6:42PM

    For years we have tolerated people being called ‘wajab ul qatal’ by clerics routinely. We never paid attention to these absurd rhetoric and today we are bearing the bitter fruits of our inactions. Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Jan 8, 2011 - 7:08PM

    @SNA….so its ok if Ghazi had killed a Hindu? Thats retarded! One should not get into any religious discourse unless you can control your emotions and provide cogent answers to make your point. If you cannot do that then I would suggest one stay away from such debate. Even the Quran teaches us the basic tolerance principal of to each their own religion.
    In the case of Ghazi if Iqbal eulogized him I think that is wrong. We don’t have to defend each and every action of Iqbal. On the other hand if the Quaid fought his legal defence there is nothing wrong with that, Quaid was a lawyer! Recommend

  • salim
    Jan 8, 2011 - 7:38PM

    M M Malik

    We’ve also tolerated the crimnal placing of head money on individuals!Recommend

  • sikandar
    Jan 9, 2011 - 8:11AM

    SNA your notion of you can kill a hindu etc is outragous, do you know your anscesters. Mind you they were Hindus and forcibily converted.
    Agreed we cannot change history but let us not glorify Gazi or anyone who merely were murderers.

    I still feel pity for our anscestors who were converted. Here we are destiny repeats. We are embroiled in Stockholme syndrome, to be precise we are sucked into the vortex of that syndrome.Recommend

  • Akhter
    Jan 11, 2011 - 7:18PM

    I think to compare Salman with Raj pal is incorrect,
    not because Salman is muslim and rajpal is hindu,but because rajpal wrote a derogatory book,where as Salman did not do any thing like rajpal.He only thougt that the law is a bad one and therefore should be ammended to save innocent people from faulty prosecution.Recommend

  • Nabeela Yousaf
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:15AM

    Judiciary” – Qazi, means Enforcement of Law and Administering “Punishment” is the Responsibility of State not the “Masses” and what Muslims in Pakistanis do is this “they violate very religion they claim to follow” – lets assume that Blasphemy Law is right and Guilty is to be punished through Death Sentence then that “sentence” would be implemented by the State not the “Public”.It is not permissible for individuals to carry out this punishment themselves. Rather the matter must be referred to the ruler or his deputy to prove the crime and carry out the punishment, because if individuals carry out hadd punishments, that will lead to a great deal of corruption and evil. Ibn Muflih al-Hanbali (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Furoo’ (6/53): It is haraam for anyone to carry out a hadd punishment except the ruler or his deputy. This is something on which the fuqaha’ of Islam are unanimously agreed, as was stated in al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (5/280): The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed that the one who should carry out hadd punishments is the ruler or his deputy, whether the punishment is transgressing one of the limits of Allaah, may He be exalted, such as zina, or a transgression against another person, such as slander. Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Feb 7, 2011 - 10:41AM

    He confessed openly in front of the whole world that he killed the later governor so what is now left to prosecute? His mentors are too strong so go after them later but quick justice must be given to this person Playing with the sanctity of religion has always been dangerous and lethal whether in Muslim, Christian, Hindu or any other country.Recommend

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