Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, appeared as defiant as ever about his alleged crime and admitted in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court to having killed the governor for his views on the blasphemy law.
In his first statement before the court, Qadri recorded his confession in front of Special Judge Pervaiz Ali Shah, of the Anti-Terrorism Court II in Rawalpindi. However, while the statement did not attempt to deny the murder, Qadri did appear to conform to his lawyers’ strategy of trying to avoid the death penalty by claiming that he was ‘provoked’.
Qadri, a constable in the Punjab Police and a member of its Elite Force, tried to justify his murder of the governor by stating that he had killed him for supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman whom Taseer had believed had been wrongly convicted of committing blasphemy.
According to Qadri’s statement, he had approached the governor on the evening of January 4 and tried to talk to him about Taseer’s very public support for Aasia Bibi and his advocacy of reform – not repeal – of the blasphemy laws.
After what Qadri claims was a brief verbal altercation, during which Taseer refused to back down from his stance, Qadri claims that he lost his temper and shot the governor in anger.
This story about Qadri actually speaking to his victim was not revealed in any of the initial investigations and was only brought forth by his defence attorneys during a hearing on July 23. Qadri had shot the governor at close range, firing, by some accounts, at least two dozen rounds into Taseer’s body.
The tone of Qadri’s statement suggested that he felt that the governor’s actions were outrageous enough for him to be killed.
Far from showing any remorse, Qadri launched into a sermon-like diatribe against the governor, attempting to justify his actions by quoting passages from the Holy Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as well as precedents in Islamic law.
Shujaur Rahman, one of Qadri’s lawyers, meanwhile, tried to smear the late governor’s personal character in a manner that was so disturbing as to prompt the judge and the prosecution lawyers to ask how such ad hominem attacks on the governor’s private life were relevant to the case.
“He was a governor, a public office holder. He should not have acted like that and expressed views against the public sentiment,” said Rahman, apparently feeling he had adequately justified his actions.
Qadri’s trial is currently being conducted in Adiala Jail for security reasons.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2011.
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