Watching the death dance in Qadri’s Pakistan

Published: October 19, 2011
The writer is a graduate of LUMS and a lawyer based in Rawalpindi/Islamabad

The writer is a graduate of LUMS and a lawyer based in Rawalpindi/Islamabad

Following the pronouncement of the Mumtaz Qadri verdict, watching lawyers indulging in acts of vandalism has been a disturbing experience. What has been even more shocking is that the District Bar Association (DBA) Rawalpindi, the representative body of the lawyers of Rawalpindi district, has been actively supporting these lawyers in the fulfilment of their agenda.

Following the pronouncement of the verdict on October 1, the DBA called for a strike and an ‘emergency’ session on October 3. However, it did not find broad support for its suggested actions, and this was apparent from the fact that the strike was only partially observed and most courts continued to function till the afternoon. The ‘emergency’ session, held at the Jinnah Hall, was attended by no more than 60-70 lawyers; the same hall was packed to capacity a week earlier, at an event to welcome a delegation of lawyers from India.

The DBA has a total of 2,056 registered voting members. By that account, the lawyers attending the session formed a maximum of three per cent of the DBA’s total members. Speeches were made in support of Qadri and against the Anti-Terrorism Court judge who had sentenced him to death. Apart from spiteful and derogatory comments against the judge, an official resolution was passed calling for his boycott. It was decided that the judge would be surrounded and prevented from attending the court the following day, his courtroom would be locked in order to prevent any lawyer from presenting his/her case, and the authorities would be asked to transfer him to another city immediately.

What has the judge done to deserve such fate? His fault was that he decided the case strictly according to the law of the land, as was his duty. More importantly, he did not budge under the pressure of the many threats that he got from the supporters of the accused, thus upholding the principles of judicial impartiality, rule of law and independence of judiciary.

When the verdict was given, it reminded me of the age-old phrase, ‘Let justice be done, though the heavens fall’. The heavens have indeed fallen upon the judge who had, until a few weeks ago, enjoyed a reasonably good reputation. Expecting violent reprisals, he was forced to take leave and stop performing his duties. The day after the DBA resolution was passed, the same lawyers who had attended the ‘emergency’ session vandalised his office. Keeping in view the threat to his life, he was eventually transferred by the authorities. It was indeed a sad and shameful day in the history of the District Bar Association Rawalpindi which had, only a few years ago, played the role of the vanguard in the lawyers’ movement for rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

As the whole episode unfolded, not a single member of the lawyers’ community displayed the courage and sagacity to raise an objection against the highly condemnable acts committed by their fellow lawyers. Equally worrying was the paucity of any debate on important, yet basic, legal questions which one would have expected to be raised in a community of professional lawyers. Does mere highlighting of the misuse of the blasphemy law, which is apparent in numerous cases, amount to ‘blasphemy’? Is the placing of procedural safeguards, in order to prevent wrongful convictions of accused who may be innocent, against Islamic law? If a person has been accused of the offence of blasphemy, isn’t he/she entitled to a fair trial and due process of law? Can individuals, rather than courts of law, be allowed to pass personal judgments on the conduct of others and summarily execute them? Would it be feasible for parliament to recognise a new defence in criminal trials under which the accused may be acquitted on grounds that his/her religious sentiments were offended?

There were other, more immediate questions. Can attacking the judge and vandalising his court be justified under any circumstance as a right response to a verdict? If the accused and his supporters were aggrieved, didn’t the law provide them with the remedy of appeal? Wasn’t the attack by the lawyers a direct assault on the independence of judiciary and rule of law? Hasn’t a dangerous precedent been set? Instead of supporting and encouraging these lawyers, shouldn’t the DBA have condemned their actions and proceeded against them under the Professional Code of Conduct?

One does not need to think hard to find out why these legitimate questions are not being asked. We can blame our intellectual bankruptcy and apathy; but that does not explain it all and we know it. The answer is fear. In this charged environment, anyone who even slightly dares to raise these questions, let alone answer them, risks being declared a ‘supporter of the blasphemers’ and thus liable to be harassed and condemned to death. The message is clearly written on the wall, and it’s in blood.

The lack of any meaningful debate on these legitimate questions shows how an ideologically motivated minority can effectively neutralise the voice of the majority, control the spaces of public discourse and hegemonise it’s otherwise logically indefensible and deeply distorted views by employing violent tactics aimed at spreading fear in society. Today, all doors for a rational public debate are closed, allowing the minority to indulge in morally reprehensible actions with impunity and without any criticism, while the majority watches in silence. This silence, dictated by the demands of individual self-preservation, represents the collective moral death of our society, where judges are being punished for making impartial decisions and upholding the rule of law while those vandalising their courtrooms, instead of being censured, are being hailed as heroes. The situation reminds me of Ayn Rand’s famous words: ‘Morality ends where the gun begins’.

The silence also affirms the death of Jinnah’s Pakistan, who had envisioned a democratic and pluralistic society where basic rights would be protected by the state. In 1927, Jinnah in his speech in the Legislative Assembly on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (through which an older version of the blasphemy law was enacted) had said: “I thoroughly endorse the principle, that while this measure should aim at those undesirable persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attack upon the religion of any particular class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion, we must also secure this very important and fundamental principle that those who are engaged in historical works, those who are engaged in bonafide and honest criticisms of a religion, shall be protected.”

Imagine Jinnah accidently uttering the exact same words on television today. Considering the fate of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, I would expect the founder of our country to be running for his life, and eventually be hounded to death by another Qadri-type, who would then receive a hero’s welcome from the right-wing brigade. The rest of us will continue to watch in silence, the death dance in Qadri’s Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Oct 19, 2011 - 10:52PM

    Excellent article.Recommend

  • mnaq1995
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:00PM

    these blockheads deserve to be locked in an asylum but unfortunately this is pakistan. Recommend

  • John B
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:10PM

    The judge will be forgotten in the future history of Pakistan and Qadri will be remembered as martyr.

    Already PAK forgot about Bhatti and Aasia Bibi, and Tasser to some extant.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:17PM

    The Honorable Judge whose name I believe is Shah should pick up his immediate family and leave the country. Pakistan is no place for him and his loved one’s anymore. Go, Judge Sahib and save your life. You have done an honorable job and we will always remember you.

    If you do not have the means, Sir, it is no shame to ask the UK, UK or Canadian authorities for asylum.

    I would also offer the Taseer family the same advice. You are a marked family. Just leave. God has given you the financial means to do so.


  • American Desi
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:23PM

    when all these things are transpiring, where is Chief justice Suo Moto?


  • Safir,,
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:44PM

    Is it Mr jinnah was himself lawyer of Ghazi Illam Din shaheed who killed one Lahori Hindu
    for writing a book against prophet Muhammad (pbuh) family.


  • Doctor
    Oct 19, 2011 - 11:47PM

    Brilliant and painful article. Jinnah’s Pakistan is long dead. Now it is upon the 180 million Pakistanis to decide whether they want to be the land of Qadri/hate/violence/sectarian terror or the land of peace.


  • Safir,,
    Oct 20, 2011 - 12:00AM

    @Doctor of animal,
    I dont know sir but i never seen indian give so anti comment against india even though they got problems too economically and socialy both. why pakistanis do more.


    Oct 20, 2011 - 12:44AM

    please save pakistan from extremism and religous intolerance


  • ubay
    Oct 20, 2011 - 12:46AM

    there is no resemble in ilim din and qadri case


  • Arifq
    Oct 20, 2011 - 12:50AM

    Fortunately or unfortunately speaking the religious right has not yet really tasted the same medicine they freely dish out to the liberals and moderates. Maybe this is the only solution, let them taste the same violent methods and mindless oppression, probably that will drill some senses.


  • faraz
    Oct 20, 2011 - 1:04AM


    Ilm Din killed a person who had written a book against the Prophet PBUH. Taseer was talking about reforms in the Blasphemy law. How can you compare the two?

    Jinnah was not the trial lawyer. Ilam Din had entered the not guilty plea through his trial lawyer, farrukh hussain. Jinnah appeared as lawyer in appeal. Jinnah did not defend the actions of Ilam Din. He attacked the evidence on legal grounds. And there was no confession and Jinnah did not ask Ilam Din to change his plea. When the court rejected his appeal, Jinnah simply said that death sentence was too harsh for a man of 19 years age.


  • Nate Gupta
    Oct 20, 2011 - 1:42AM

    The Judiciary is supposed to be one of the foundation pillars of a democratic country, with lawyers its protectors. The rot in the society runs deep and it has affected all walks of lives in Pakistan. The honourable judge should not be persecuted for trying to defend the sanctity of the law of the land.
    Appalling! Simply appalling!


  • Mubarik
    Oct 20, 2011 - 1:47AM

    @American Desi:
    “when all these things are transpiring, where is Chief justice Suo Moto?”
    My Lord Chief Justice is having lunch with Ulmaie Deen to discuss punishment for supporting blasphemers like ST.


  • Max
    Oct 20, 2011 - 3:21AM

    @Meekal Ahmed:
    I second Dr. Meekal Ahmed’s proposition. I will ask the author and other friends to be careful. There was a time that I thought of returning to Pakistan. Then it was just the physical distance, now it is distance of mind.


  • Feroz
    Oct 20, 2011 - 4:00AM

    The citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are teaching the World what happens when a private matter like Religion is brought into the public space. While every Prophet of Religion has taught Peace, Love and Brotherhood the countries ideologically inclined have done the most to tarnish the fair name of Religion they claim to protect.
    No Religion or God needs protection from Humans, it is they who are protecting us often pitying us too. Religion is not a shelter or protection for hardened criminals, deviant Politicians or megalomaniac Generals. It should not be trampled on in the manner it is otherwise people will lose all faith and become atheists.


  • Peace
    Oct 20, 2011 - 4:13AM

    Why we ask the judges to decide when we can decide it our self?


  • Tahir
    Oct 20, 2011 - 8:15AM

    What a shame. The DBA could have demonstrated that it was an organization of educated and law-abiding citizens, instead it sides with depraved people like Qadri.

    Will someone tell me how your religion is demeaned or lowered if someone writes a book attacking your religious beliefs? Is your religion not bigger than this? Can you silence dissent and debate at gunpoint? More importantly who would want to live in such a society? Practise your religion in silence and modesty, don’t enforce it on other people. Let us live this mortal life in peace and without fear. Recommend

  • Zach Khan
    Oct 20, 2011 - 8:16AM

    @ Safir: This has nothing to do with India. Can you worry about Pakistan for once and not drag India into every argument?


  • narayana murthy
    Oct 20, 2011 - 8:31AM

    @John B and others,

    PAKISTAN has always touted heroes as villains, villains as heroes. And the result is visible in every single strata of the country, where Pakistan is regressing.

  • Mirza
    Oct 20, 2011 - 8:59AM

    Great article. Please keep safe, theyse guys are very unforgiving totally against the teaching of our merciful prophet PBUH.


  • Khan
    Oct 20, 2011 - 9:47AM

    Intimidating the judge or trying to influence the course of a trial is absolutely criminal. I am not amazed at the lawyers behavior, because lying is a part of their profession. Before this, many criminals have escaped justice through such and more profound tactics. Take the example of Malik Ishaq, in whose trials a number of policemen and judges were intimidated or even murdered.


  • jp
    Oct 20, 2011 - 10:42AM

    “The DBA has a total of 2,056 registered voting members. The ‘emergency’ session, held at the Jinnah Hall, was attended by no more than 60-70 lawyers; ” So where were the balance 97% lawyers hiding? If they had shown some guts and condemned this act then & there, Pakistan should have conveyed a strong message to these religious criminals then and there. Instead of that everybody were busy saving their own skin & keeping mum. ….Recommend

  • Che
    Oct 20, 2011 - 10:58AM

    Great article.We need such people in this time of despair to have their say against who are leading our country,nay riding our country for their dirty ambitions.Recommend

  • abdul moiz
    Oct 20, 2011 - 11:33AM

    superb deserves to be shared more and read by more people.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Oct 20, 2011 - 11:46AM

    Will the writer kindly condemn the lawyer defending Raymond Davis? Or will he stay mum on that issue because of an order from Uncle Sam?

    Fact is this, salman taseer did not want to improve the blasphemy law, in an interview with Becky Anderson on CNN, aired on 23rd November 2010, he issued a “fatwaa” declaring that death was not the punishment for blasphemy. Ironically, on none of the Pakistani TV channels, did he explicitly support the death sentence.

    Salman taseer is NO hero, and only liberals give him a two-pence tribute, which he does not deserve. His murder was wrong, but he was no “shaheed”.


  • Santosh
    Oct 20, 2011 - 11:48AM

    these blockheads deserve to be locked in an asylum but unfortunately this is pakistan
    Actually the blockheads are already in the asylum. Unfortunately, Pakistan has become that asylum.


    Oct 20, 2011 - 12:23PM

    if you teach hatred at all levels of education, then what do you expect, all our urdu and islamiat books are full of hatred for other religions and jihadi literature, this will continue to happen, we need to introduce secularism in our culture


  • wahab butt
    Oct 20, 2011 - 1:42PM

    Its sad to see these people supporting this killer. Its even more apathy that big names like Aitzaz Ahsan have not supported the judge for fair decisions. No one has condemned these lawyers, whether media or lawyers themselves.
    This indeed is the death of Jinnah’s Pakistan :(


  • Umar
    Oct 20, 2011 - 2:11PM

    Rational approach. I salute Judge who announced hanging of killer Qadri adn also salute people like author.

    Lawyers must respect an honest judge and justice. I feel shame for them.Recommend

  • Serenity
    Oct 20, 2011 - 2:12PM

    Do you support the court’s verdict that it gave against asia bibi? Why not measure all with the same stick – instead of only complaining for Qadri and forgetting that asia bibi is also waiting death sentence


  • thundapani
    Oct 20, 2011 - 4:21PM

    What is the problem with that? At least we admit we are no longer proud of what’s we have become.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Oct 20, 2011 - 5:44PM

    @SABA ALI:

    Removing religious education is NOT the solution, Islam, was, is and will always be an important part of our lives. Godless secularist liberals, who are in paucity, cannot dictate their agenda to the majority.Recommend

  • persian
    Oct 20, 2011 - 5:59PM

    @Santosh: You took words out of my mouth. My sentiments exactly.


  • Ali Tanoli,
    Oct 20, 2011 - 6:56PM

    @Saba ali,
    In christian world they got all the history of reliegen and also cross wars if u ever heard of
    and by the way in america there 24/7 reliegous channels run and if u litsen when they say
    against Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) i bet your BP wil be very
    high if u have gharat unless secular….


  • Enthralled
    Oct 20, 2011 - 7:04PM

    This article, wonderfully written, set to music.


  • Cynical
    Oct 20, 2011 - 11:35PM

    It’s ironic, that the ’emergency meeting’ of DBA was held in ‘Jinnah Hall’.

    Destiny plays it’s hand on it’s own time table.


  • Nazish
    Oct 21, 2011 - 12:30AM

    What i cannot understand is why the “educated” brood of pakistan fails to see the bigger picture. So Qadri is criminal and murderer because he took the law in his own hand but Taseer was Shaheed because he wasnt taking the law in his own hand by sidestepping the law of blasphemy approved by constitution of pakistan. If your analytical thinking and education teaches you to question the law that are a part of shariah than that analytical thinking be damned. When it comes to pakistan the worst culprits are the educated folks.You cannot call a constable wrong for breaking the law and uphold a minister for breaking the law. Go stuff yourselves. Its a law in pakistan that blasphemy is a punishable crime if you feel its burern too strong for your sensibilities by all means go else where.


  • Zach Khan
    Oct 21, 2011 - 7:07AM

    @Ali Tanoli:

    I live in America and nobody cares about the religious channels. Religious channels are often made fun of in the main stream media because of their stupid and simple minded commentators. And I have never heard them making fun of Muslim prophet, they know if they did, they would be given death threats by crazy Muslims living here. Please don’t compare Pakistan to America. America is a country where people of all races and religions get along with each other and tolerate each other. America is a country where Law stands above everything else – nobody calls a murderer their hero here.

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani

    You are always spreading lies about Liberals and hatred for Salman Taseer. Why don’t you get your facts right. Taseer wanted to amend the law to make it more precise and less draconian but perhaps its too hard to understand for a simple mind like yours.


  • Nazish
    Oct 23, 2011 - 10:27AM

    Bhai sahab if taseer wanted to address the law he should’ve have done what Sherry did. Taseer was trying to win EU union approval by being the saviour of a blasphemer. His intentions were made clear by himself. He thought by winning the approval of EU union he would bring Pakistan a new level of acceptance and in his mind frame respect. To that end he was willing to jump the due legal processes,or arranging a presidential pardon. When inquired what does he have to say to folks of pakistan who had trouble with his take and his aggressive tactics on the issue his response was these jahil maulvis, main in say darta hoon. While i can see he was candid about his opinions (so is a red neck or a xeniphobne) he truly lacked the grace of a governor who rather than settling an issue tries to snub population that he is governing. That is the problem of our ruling class they have utter and complete contempt for those they rule. So called democracy for you in our land of pure. If that is what liberalism looks like to you than so be it.

    Frankly to me ,if a muslim has no concern about setting the mind of his fellow brothers at ease and has no qualms about considering himself superior to all others who might be far more educated than him in matters concerning shariah. Than he is a sorry muslim indeed.What are after all his expertise on matters concerning shariah. How can just snubbing an approved law make him liberal or democratic?


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Oct 23, 2011 - 6:45PM

    @Zach Khan:

    Read my comment again, Taseer’s stance was not for the betterment of the law, but to make it virtually ineffective. No one, including JI, said that implementation of the law cant be improved.


  • Zach Khan
    Oct 23, 2011 - 8:43PM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani

    He was for death penalty if the accused is found guilty beyond doubt, not when he/she is under age, made an honest mistake, or the accuser owes them money. He may be no shaheed under your values, but he will definitely be remembered as a hero among the humanitarians. Your first comment had absolutely nothing to do with the article. The article is about the religious mafia who act like goons and thugs when you use rationality instead of religious sensationalism in court decisions. In the 21th century we have lawyers who are crying about a 7th century law. May be in your next comment you can try not to sound like a broken record about how Salman Taseer is not a shaheed and comment on the actual subject discussed in the article.

    @ Nazish:

    May be you can comment on the actual subject matter instead of vilifying Salman Taseer after he is dead.Recommend

  • Nazish
    Nov 1, 2011 - 9:14AM

    Someone’s life status cannot exempt him from his political stance during his life. May be when you can get over your haste to structure a pakistani humanitarian you will reply to points i raised. cheers


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