By Aftab Afridi:
The reverberations of Justice Munir verdict in Maulvi Tameez uddin case are being felt even today. Every military coup was sanctioned and given a legal cover based on this faulty decision. The long lasting ill effects of this judgment were not realized at the time of its announcement. Similarly the outcome of the Mumtaz Qadri case will have profound impact on the future of this nation. The fact that an ex – Chief Justice of Lahore High Court has come forward to argue in favor of a self confessed killer is likely to put further strain on the judges. It appears that anything wrapped in a cloak of religiosity will even blind our arbitrators of justice. After the proclamation of the sentence; the anti terrorist court judge was hurriedly transferred to Lahore after his office was ransacked by a section of lawyers. There have already been violent protests all around the country condemning the verdict and calling for its commutation by the President. Clearly the protestors through their threats and aggressive gestures are trying to mould outcome of the case in their favor.
Lately the courts have also been accused of releasing terrorist suspects. However the judges have defended the acquittals on the basis of lack of evidence provided by the prosecution. The Supreme Court in July ordered the release of Malik Ishaq; a dreaded sectarian killer. . He is the founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), which is aligned with al Qaeda along with Jandullah and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. He was implicated in 44 cases of culpable homicide and was acquitted in 34 of those cases. He was also allegedly accused of plotting terrorist plots from the confines of his jail room and indicted in planning and executing the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It has already been reported that Malik Ishaq had in October 1997 admitted to an Urdu daily to being involved in the killing of over a 100 people.
The sectarian temperature has also shot up in the aftermath of his release. There have already been two attacks on Shia Hazaras. On September 19, near the town of Mastung gunmen forced 40 Hazaras to disembark from a bus through which they were traveling to visit Holy sites in Iran; shot them at close range and fled the scene of the crime. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi later claimed responsibility for this attack. Ironically, Malik Ishaq has very close links with this sectarian organization.
The releases of terrorist suspects by courts have been a recurring theme. This has happened despite the fact that mostly ordinary Pakistani citizens have bore the brunt of terror related causalities. A US State Department report in 2010 criticized Pakistan for failing to outlaw militant Islamic groups. It further complained that Pakistan’s acquittal rate of prosecuting suspected terrorists was approximately 75% culminating in release of three out of four defendants. The courts have also been instrumental in the release of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed; the controversial Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Ameer who was also banned by a UN Security Council resolution. It is pertinent to mention that Mr. Saeed also led the funeral prayers for Osama Bin Laden after his death through a US Navy Seals operation.
The Qadri case presents a very clear evidence of inherent flaws in religiously inspired laws. It also provides the courts with an opportunity to absolve them of the perception that the judges hold a soft corner for the Islamic militants. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear and cogent. However the stay of the sentencing by the Islamabad High Court has again sent the wrong signals. The fight is for the soul of Pakistan. Release of Qadri will have very serious ramifications for the coming generations. This will provide an explicit justification to commit such acts of brute violence in the name of religion. There is still time. The virus of religiously sanctioned killing is still in its embryonic stage. It should be nipped in the bud before it turns into an inferno and engulfing the entire society.