RAWALPINDI: Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, has been sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court today (Saturday).
Qadri, one of Taseer’s elite force guards, shot and killed the governor for his views on the blasphemy law outside a restaurant in Islamabad.
During the incamera hearing of the murder case, the anti-terrorism court (ATC) said that it was a heinous crime and there is no justification to it; however, no date has been given for the execution of the sentence. The court also fined Qadri of Rs200,000 along with the death sentence.
Justice Syed Pervez Ali Shah, an ATC judge, while taking up the case at the Adiala Jail, noted down the statement of Qadri. In this statement, Qadri admitted before the judge that nobody intimidated him to murder the former governor.
Raja Shujahur Rehman, Qadri’s lawyer, told the media outside Adiala Jail that his client had also submitted a written statement of 40 pages, referring to 11 Quranic verses, 28 quotes from Sunnah and several other eminent Muslim jurists with reference to Islamic jurisprudence.
The defence lawyer stated that the prosecution raised no objection over the statement of Qadri, therefore the court validly admitted this statement and made it a part of the court record.
Experts say that Qadri has to appeal within seven days against the verdict.
Tears of anger
Qadri's supporters took to the streets to denounce the sentence soon after it was handed down.
"By punishing one Mumtaz Qadri, you will produce a thousand Mumtaz Qadris!" one man shouted through a megaphone outside the jail.
Several hundred supporters of Qadri blocked a road outside the jail and chanted slogans. Some recited verses from the Quran while members of the Sunni Tehreek group waved their party's green and yellow flags.
A Qadri supporter, wiping tears from his face, said: "We don't accept this. We don't accept this."
Police were deployed at the jail gate to prevent any break-in. After Qadri was sentenced, the judge left through the back door.
In Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh area, where former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, about 1,000 angry Qadri supporters blocked a main road with burning tyres.
Shouting slogans against the government and the judge who sentenced Qadri, they forced shops to shut down.
Stick-wielding protesters attacked passing vehicles.
"This decision was made to please the Jewish lobby," said Sahibzada Ata-ur-Rehman, a leader of the Sunni Tehreek.
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.