Do Individuals have the Right to Punish Blasphemers in Pakistan, SC Questions
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court questioned on Tuesday whether individuals had the authority to punish a blasphemer.
Hearing former elite force guard Mumtaz Qadri’s plea, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the main issue in the case is whether individuals can presume the authority to punish a blasphemer.
Justice Khosa expressed apprehension that if people took the authority to punish blasphemers then a “trend will start” which will be “dangerous for society.”
Further, the judge said that there are a number of precedents in the superior courts wherein individuals have leveled allegations of blasphemy on the basis of their personal grudges.
Justice Khosa also questioned whether the accused had approached the state against former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Although agreeing with the court’s apprehension, the counsel for the accused, Nazir Akhtar, said, “Punishing a blasphemer is a religious duty which has to be performed by everyone.”
“In 80 cases, courts have given punishment and in 40 cases individuals have taken steps against blasphemers,” Akhtar added.
On Monday, Qadri’s lawyer argued before a bench of the Supreme Court that the guard had acted on his own interpretation of the blasphemy law and teachings of the Holy Quran after being influenced by speeches of a religious scholar to assassinate ex-Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Mian Nazir Akhtar, arguing Qadri’s plea to overturn the death sentence awarded by an anti-terror court, said that the guard was convinced Taseer had committed blasphemy.
The three-member bench noted that the real culprit was the person who had induced Qadri to commit the act.
Justice Khosa added that no evidence had been presented that showed Taseer committed blasphemy; rather it seemed that the slain governor had pointed out defects in the law — which did not constitute a crime.
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