That extremism and a radical mindset, as well as a disregard for the norms of justice, have seeped deeply into our society is something that has been quite apparent for a long time now. But to see its manifestation in the form of an elected parliamentarian demanding the release of a convicted murderer is highly deplorable and shocking. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA from Mardan, Mujahid Ali, has stoked huge controversy after demanding on the floor of the National Assembly, the release of Mumtaz Qadri, who shot dead the former governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, for his apparent opposition to the country’s blasphemy laws. Qadri was later sentenced to death for his gruesome act.

Although the PTI later dissociated itself from Mr Ali’s statement, calling it an individual act and not reflective of the party’s policy, the matter simply cannot be allowed to rest at that as this comes from someone, who is in a position to influence the kind of laws that enter our statute books, and ultimately, the course the country takes. PTI leader, Arif Alvi’s clarification, that “the party’s policy will remain under the country’s law and the Constitution” is kind of meaningless as it clearly had no influence on Mr Ali, who had no trouble in expressing a view that was in contradiction to the PTI’s policy.

One cannot help but refer to the ruckus that was created after Javed Hashmi famously declared at the inauguration of the new parliament that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is and will remain his leader. He was eventually forced to retract his statement. If such a hue and cry can be raised over a harmless statement like that of Mr Hashmi’s, and if a leader of his stature does not have a problem withdrawing it, then the party must demand a similar retraction from Mr Ali, who has ignored all norms of justice in airing such views. If Mr Ali fails to retract his statement, then the PTI should initiate disciplinary action against him. It should not be this easy for our lawmakers to condone, directly or indirectly, the acts of convicted criminals.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd,  2013.

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