Judge, jury and executioner: Can individuals punish blasphemers, asks apex court

Published: October 7, 2015
Mumtaz Qadri PHOTO: AFP

Mumtaz Qadri PHOTO: AFP


The country’s top court asked on Tuesday whether an individual has the authority to assume the role of a judge, jury and executioner after having accused someone of blasphemy.

“If everyone starts punishing others, who have in their opinion committed blasphemy, then this society will disintegrate,” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Justice Khosa is heading a three-judge bench of the apex court which is hearing two identical appeals to revoke a death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri for killing former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The sentence was first awarded by an anti-terror court and was then upheld by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) before being challenged in the apex court.

Justice Khosa was apprehensive that if people had the authority to punish alleged blasphemers, then chaos will reign. He warned that people could misuse it by accusing opponents of blasphemy to settle personal scores.

“I have dealt with a case where a person had a property dispute but he lodged a case of blasphemy against his opponent.”

The court further asked whether Qadri had approached the state with his accusation of blasphemy against Taseer, and whether any evidence was available that lent credence to such accusations.

Qadri’s counsel Justice (retd) Mian Nazir Akhtar contended that something had happened just before Taseer was killed since none of the other elite force personnel present at the scene reacted to Qadri’s action. He added that punishing a blasphemer was a religious duty enjoined on everyone.

The counsel argued that in blasphemy cases, words also matter though intention to commit a crime may not be as relevant.

The bench, while refusing to interpret Islamic teachings, said they will focus on the murder case.

The court asked Qadri’s counsel to conclude his arguments today (Wednesday).

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2015.

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