Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence given to the policeman who assassinated former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011, with the ruling seen as a key development in the country’s campaign against extremism.
Pakistani media reports said a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking the scrapping of the death sentence given to Mumtaz Qadri, who was a member of Taseer’s security detail when he gunned down the outspoken politician.
The death sentence given to Qadri by an anti-terrorism court was upheld by the Islamabad High Court. It was then challenged in the Supreme Court by Qadri’s supporters. Qadri was supported by several top lawyers, including a retired chief justice of the Lahore high court who appeared as his counsel.
Soon after the assassination in January 2011, Qadri, a former policeman, had said he had no regrets for gunning down Taseer because he was an “apostate” according to the Quran and Islamic laws. Qadri had also said he was angered by Taseer’s defence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.
On Tuesday, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had questioned whether an individual could assume the role of judge, jury and executioner after accusing someone of blasphemy. It said chaos would reign if people had the authority to punish alleged blasphemers.
Qadri’s lawyers had argued that punishing a blasphemer was a religious duty for everyone.
The case was seen as a bellwether for Pakistan’s campaign against extremism and terrorism, especially because Qadri received extensive support from the legal fraternity.