The suspension of the death sentence for the assassin of the Pakistani governor and blasphemy law critic, Salman Taseer, has only emboldened the protesters. In their outrage following the verdict against Mumtaz Qadri, they have also ransacked the judge’s chambers, while making the standard allegations of a “Jewish” hand in the verdict. “Pakistani Islamic extremists march in support of assassin Mumtaz Qadri,” by Jibran Khan for Asia News, October 14:
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Islamic fundamentalist fringe, the association of lawyers in Rawalpindi, a famous judge of the court of Lahore and thousands of Pakistanis are on the streets: a large chunk of the country is challenging the judiciary and the government, guilty of condemning to death Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard and self-confessed murderer of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was killed on January 2 for defending the Christian Asia Bibi and asking for changes to the blasphemy laws. Speaking to AsiaNews Catholic leaders confirm the “mass reaction” of religious parties against the ruling and observe “with great sorrow” a nation that is “in danger of falling into chaos and anarchy.”
Sahibzada Fazle Karim, president of the Sunni Ittehad Council, has announced for 21 November next, a human chain under the slogan: “Bring down the government.” According to the extremist leader, a long line of people will link Rawalpindi — home to the court that handed down the sentence against Qadri – and Karachi in southern Pakistan, demanding the resignation of the executive. “We will not let the government – said Sahibzada Fazle Karim — keep hostage the hero of Islam, who killed a blasphemous infidel.” He then launches an appeal to all Muslims, to fight together against “the government, the Ahmadis and the West” accused of “conspiracy against Islam.”
In a surprise decision, the former head of the Lahore High Court has decided to take the legal defense of Qadri in the appeal process in Islamabad. “Qadri’s gesture is justified – says the judge — as one of a true Muslim.” The members of the Association of lawyers of Rawalpindi have also given the government an ultimatum: if within five days Judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah – author of the sentence to death — is not transferred a lawyers strike will be launched nationwide. Meanwhile, the city attorney has suspended the enforceability of the death sentence, pending appeal.
Meanwhile, among the Catholic leaders in Pakistan the fear of a violent drift of the protest remains: for Msgr. Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop emeritus of Lahore, there was a “massive response” of Islamic religious parties, which so far, “the authorities have been able to control.” For Mgr. Rufin Anthony, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, the fact a respected judge decides to assume the defense of a criminal is not a “good sign” for the judicial system in Pakistan. Not only for the act of killing itself, clarifies the prelate, but for “the justification for killing anyone who does not share your opinion.”
The bishop of the capital, warns that the country may plunge into chaos and anarchy, becoming a place where “the killers are considered heroes.” And note a contradiction: If Taseer’s murder was justified, why is the Islamic Tehreek movement offering a sum of money “to wash the blood spilled with money.”
Islamic law provides for the use of diyya, or blood money, giving people with enough money or sufficient connections and influence to raise it the possibility of buying their way out of their crimes. The offer here is condescending and disdainful, attempting to buy off the loss of Taseer at a price of their choosing and make the matter go away, so that Qadri gets off scot-free.