Original Articles

‘Peasants for Democracy’ demand Aitzaz Ahsan to be a prosecutor in the Taseer murder case

Related articles: LUBP Archive on Peasants for Democracy (PFD)

Public prosecutor in Taseer murder case and the stance of Urban Citizens for Democracy – by Barrister Waseem Ijaz

Peasants for Democracy (PFD) is a non-partisan organisation of rural and poor Pakistanis. The PFD members are weary of the fact that voices and perspectives of rural and poor Pakistanis remain suppressed and misrepresented by the urban elite and their middle class paraphernalia of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi who often promote the military establishment’s interests in the garb of the civil society.

Through this post, the PFD seeks to express its dissatisfaction with the way shaheed Taseer murder case is being handled by the prosecuting lawyers.

We are extremely upset and alarmed by reading the following news items:

Prosecutor in Taseer muder case withdraws
February 4, 2011

Malook cites security concerns and lack of instructions from the government as reasons for withdrawal.

Prosecutor in the Salmaan Taseer murder case, Saiful Malook, has withdrawn from the case citing security concerns and lack of instructions from the government. Malook said the government had promised to provide him with security while he was following the case, but has not fulfilled the promise so far. Malook also claimed that the case challan was incomplete as the police have not yet determined if the assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was instigated by clerics to murder the late Punjab governor. He said the challan will remain incomplete until the case against the clerics is decided.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/114072/prosecutor-in-taseer-muder-case-withdraws/

On February 1, a Pakistani court deferred theindictment of Qadri as the prosecution could not provide some documents to defence lawyers. Hardline Pakistani Islamist parties have rallied insupport of Qadri. Liberals and civil society activists were outraged when Qadri was showered with rose petals at the earlier court hearings.

http://news.oneindia.in/2011/02/04/prosecutorin-taseer-murder-case-quits-amid-securityconcern-aid0126.html

Here is a video clip of urban lawyers and civil society of Islamabad supporting Salman Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri:

Islamabad lawyers chant slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri during his appearnce in a court on Jan 5, 2011

We, the PFD, are saddened by the fact that the pro-Iftikhar Chaudhry lawyers (belonging to Imran Khan’s PTI, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s JI) who showered rose petals over Mumtaz Qadri, and their liberal allies of the urban civil society, have refused to contest Salman Taseer’s case.

Apparently, the urban leaders of the lawyers movement, who were once the icons of bravery and resistance during military dictatorship of General Musharraf, are now too scared to act as prosecutors or counsels in the Taseer murder case.

Senior lawyers such as Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan, Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed and their low ranking assistants and cheerers of the Civil Society such as Ayesha Tammy Haq, Nasim Zehra and Syed Iqbal Haider played an active role in the movement to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Aitzaz Ahsan played a key role in the movement, represented CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry in the SCP, defended his case in the public and media, and also wrote inspirational anthems in the Lawyers Movement. In view of his courage and bravery against tyranny of General Musharraf, and his hero image in the eyes of the civil society, we propose that Aitzaz should lead a panel of prosecutors in the Taseer mruder case.

Peasants for Democracy demand that a panel comprising the following persons represents Salman Taseer’s family in the court.

Panel leader: Aitzaz Ahsan
Panel members: Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed, Hamid Khan, Syed Iqbal Haider, Akram Shaikh
Panel Assistants: Ayesha Tammy Haq, Ejaz Haider, Mosharraf Zaidi

In particular, we would like to have Ayesha Tammy Haq contest the case on behalf of the Taseer family. She was the sister in law of Salmaan Taseer and more importantly, she is a lawyer (though corporate) herself. She can fight the case more passionately than any other lawyer and assist Aitzaz and other senior counsels.

The PFD will keenly monitor those who support the above demand and those who may offer all sorts of excuses to save the icons of the civil society from this public demand.

Urban civil society must not trust the corrupt and coward government:

As we know, according to Aitzaz Ahsan and his urban civil society cohorts, the PPP government is corrupt and also coward. According to the urban civil society, the Zardari-Gilani duo have compromised on the blood of shaheed Salmaan Taseer and given in to the religious right. This very important case must not be left to a corrupt and coward government.

Therefore, Aitzaz Ahsan must voluntarily appear in the court as counsel on behalf of shaheed Taseer’s family. Aitzaz Ahsan and his panel of urban civil society may once again lead this nation to victory against all odds, threats and harassment by the mullahs; as they did the last time they took on PPP’s mullahs and militias in 2008-2009.

Security concerns

If PPP jiyalas and some civil society persons may attend the Taseer murder case in the court, why can’t Aitzaz and Tammy Haq? Indeed, they are not even below the Zardari tola in courage.

In view of the fact that Governor Taseer was killed by his own security guard, the whole concept of security has become meaningless. This corrupt and coward government cannot be trusted with the security of the prosecuting panel.

We therefore suggest that dozens of ‘chief tere janisar, behsumar’ may offer personal security to Aitzaz Ahsan, Tammy Haq and other counsels. Fans and flatterers of Aitzaz Ahsan come to mind who may voluntarily act as human shield around Aitzaz and Tammy when they appear in the court. They can show to the world that they can offer all sorts of sacrifices to uphold the rule of law and liberal values in Pakistan.

Despite some rumours on the internet, we don’t believe that Aitzaz and Tammmy etc are coward, and that they are hiding because of security. This does not match with the image of Aitzaz we knew in the lawyers movement days.

Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan, Iqbal Haider and Justice Wajih etc are the urban civil society heroes. They will not disappoint us at this crucial juncture.

Urban Citizens for Democracy

We propose that the urban civil society write an open letter to Aitzaz Ahsan and other panel members listed above, urging them to take up Taseer’s case. Citizens for Democracy (an urban civil society association) may draft a letter to Aitzaz Ahsan and circulate it.

Aitzaz Ahsan and other panel members too must rise to the occasion and struggle for justice to Taseer. This is a test of their leadership and sincerity. This is history in making. The great Aitzaz Ahsan and his panel MUST make sure that Mumtaz Qadri goes to gallows for his crime. May God and the civil society be with them. Amen.

Some Comments from the ET website

Imran Khan (IOpyne)

So where is that band of fearless lawyers which claims to have brought down a dictatorship? Why is Eatzaz Ahsan not saying anything?

kumar

How come the CJP Choudhary is not taking suo moto notice here, he seems to be doing a lot of that elsewhere?

human

@kumar CJP is not taking suo moto because it has nothing to do with potato or tomato prices in the country!

vasan

What do u expect. A govt, that could not even investigate the murder of ex Prime minister BB and ran to the UN, obviously is terrorised by the religious fanaticism. The chickens have definitely come home to roost.
Alternatively how to provide security to the Prosecutor, There could be killers among them. My guess is that the prosecutor may be afraid more of the security than the public. No wonder Mumbai murderers are roaming scott free in Pakistan as no one dare touch them

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri

27 Comments

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  • The big names of the legal community who led the lawyers’ movement have seem to have opted for selective commitment to rule of law by not taking a clear cut position to stand.

    Pity!!!

  • Some random comments from Twitter:

    Aitzaz to fight Taseer’s case #Aitzaz4Taseer??? Ji haan, ka’abay se inn buto’n ko bhi nisbat hay door ki!

    Aitzaz is an opportunist. He acts only when there is some fame. Admirers are less than critics in taseer’s case.

    At least not Aitzaz, who say there is no need even to question blasphemy law http://bit.ly/h1SbD0

    While Aitzaz Ahsan and co played an extremely disappointing role in the elections of Asma Jahangir, it is never too late to repair one’s sins.

  • Pakistan governor’s assassin in court hearing
    (AFP) – Jan 24, 2011
    RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — A man who admitted assassinating a Pakistani provincial governor to defend the country’s controversial blasphemy laws appeared in a prison court for a preliminary trial hearing Monday.
    Bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri has confessed that he gunned down his boss, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, on January 4 because he objected to the politician’s wish to amend the blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty.
    Taseer’s killing has met with mixed reactions in Pakistan, with many from the country’s increasingly powerful conservative religious quarter praising the gunman for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician.
    Rallies have been held in honour of Qadri, who was showered with petals at earlier court hearings after he admitted to the shooting.
    Monday’s hearing was held in private inside high-security Adiyala prison in Rawalpindi, a garrison city bordering capital Islamabad, with no media present.
    Some 35 Qadri supporters from an Islamic youth group gathered outside the jail, reciting Koranic verses and shouting: “Allah is the Greatest”, “We salute you Qadri” and “Long Live Qadri, Long Live Punjab police”.
    Qadri’s lawyer Shuja Rehman told AFP that investigation reports were submitted to the court before the hearing was adjourned until February 1, when the gunman would be indicted.
    “We met Qadri in the prison. He is being kept in solitary confinement which is another form of torture. We asked the court to allow his family members to see him and he be given legal facilities in the prison,” said Rehman.
    No prosecuting lawyer was available to comment.
    According to an investigating officer, Qadri in his confession said that he killed Salman Taseer by himself and he had no links with any extremist organisation but was “impressed” by the speeches of two outspoken clerics.
    The clerics known for their fiery sermons — Mufti Qari Haneef Qureshi and Imtiaz Shah — sought and were granted injunctions at a Rawalpindi court last week preventing them being arrested in connection with Qadri’s crime.
    Qureshi appeared outside the prison to support Qadri on Monday, and told AFP that he had no involvement in the killing.
    Qadri could be “one of thousands who offer prayers led by me” said Qureshi.
    “I have come here because I want him to be freed by the court.”
    The killing has reignited controversy over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which were recently used to sentence a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, to death following a dispute with her fellow villagers in southern Punjab.
    Taseer sought to amend the law, which human rights activists say is often abused in petty disputes, but in the face of huge public support for the legislation the government has said it has no plans to change it.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jKqtEqOmv4l_-FdQI4E4ML-JHp6w?docId=CNG.370a134cc186f62c77d9e39a3fb458d5.2a1

  • By the way, on the last picture in your post where AA is scratching his head, the green flags belong to which party? Does any one know?

  • @Pasha,
    the green flags belong to sher marka, PML-N.

    @Abdul Nishapuri,
    A very good article and a very justified demand. Ayesha Tammy Haq should work together with other lawyers and act as the prosecution lawyers.

    Aitzaz sahab was asked by CJ to fight his case and he did. Now we are in no way big enough like the CJ, but at least together, our plea should be accepted.

    We can even give rights to Geo to cover the case…

  • Excellent Write up…. Aitzaz Should come forward singing the same anthem he was popular for in Lawyers movement
    Let’s have Aitzaz4Taseer campaign on all social networking sites to get Justice for Taseer

  • آج بھی جمہوری حکومت ہی ہے‘ جو ایک آمر کی پھیلائی ہوئی تباہیوں کے اثرات سے نکلنے کے لئے سرگرداں ہے۔
    یہ جمہوریت ہی تھی‘ جس میں آمروں کی چیرہ دستیوں سے نڈھال عدلیہ کو بحال کیا گیا اور پھر آزاد عدلیہ کے فیصلوں کے سامنے سر جھکائے۔ ورنہ پرویزمشرف نے تو اس عدلیہ کو باہر نکال پھینکا تھا اور ججوں کے حق میں چلتی ہوئی تحریک ٹھنڈی پڑ گئی تھی۔ عدلیہ کی بحالی کا اصل کریڈٹ صدر زرداری اور نوازشریف کو جاتا ہے۔ باقی سب کہانیاں ہیں۔

    nazeer naji

    http://search.jang.com.pk/details.asp?nid=503256

  • Honorable Aitzaz Ahasan is our leader, he can just order any “Jaan Nisar” of him, and he will be there to sacrifice…. He called us from Spain during Bar elections and insisted us that don’t let Asma be alone… Am not there only bodily but my soul is among you people. Now this time he is here at the country and he will accept this request if asked formally…

  • You people are fools, Aitzaz is the son of Indus, the Babul Islam, the land of bin Qasim, the son of indus/babulislam will never come against another son of Islam..Inshallah

  • LUBP writes against every single sane voice in the PPP including Sherry Rehman, Aitzaz Ahsan, Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbasi.

    And now LUBP’s target is Citizens for Democracy.

  • Zardari ke pithoo Tha
    Babar Awan ke pithoo Tha
    Rehman Dakait ke pithoo Tha
    NRO wallay Tha
    Blind jiallay Tha

  • Citizens for Democracy – a coalition of professional organisations, trade unions, political parties, non-government organisations and individuals including Naveen Naqvi, Shayan Afzal Khan, Yasser Latif Hamdani, Sabeen Mahmud, Beena Sarwar, Faisal Butt, Marvi Sirmed, Ambareen Kazim, Fahim Zaman Khan, Nadeem Hussain Mahbina Waheed, Naziha Syed Ali,

    http://citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/open-letter-to-chairman-senate-protest-justification-of-murder/

  • ghar ko aag lag gayee ghar kay chiragh say

    By YLH

    I read Aitzaz Ahsan’s “Indus Saga” and instantly became his fan. Here was our answer to Jawaharlal Nehru. Here was a secular liberal Pakistani nationalist who believed in Jinnah’s Pakistan and a democratic civilised polity. Indus Saga remains in my view one of the finest books on the creation of Pakistan written by a Pakistani politician.

    When Aitzaz Ahsan took on the cause of the Chief Justice, I followed him for he appeared to be the voice of reason and sanity. I believed that so long as he was there , we could hope that Pakistani liberals would prevail on what increasingly looked like a reactionary movement. So we kept supporting him.

    Now Aitzaz Ahsan has let us down. He was the chiragh of our house and now he has burnt down the last citadel of hope as well. As a lawyer and as an author I am today truly broken.

    ——–

    Blasphemy law should remain intact: Aitzaz

    Staff Report

    ISLAMABAD: The blasphemy law (295-C) should remain intact, and if Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer committed any mistake or blasphemy, instead of killing him he should have been punished under the law of the country, Pakistan People’s Party senior leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan said.

    While talking to reporters at the Supreme Court building, Aitzaz said no amendment of any kind should be brought in the blasphemy law and it should remain intact at every cost. He said that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had given assurance for implementing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif’s agenda, and therefore the PML-N chief should also support the government.

    To a question, Aitzaz said that he had not been offered the governorship of Punjab. “Better and more eligible people than me are waiting for the governorship,” he added. Aitzaz further said that President Asif Ali Zardari as the co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party would decide the appointment of the Punjab governor.

    http://pakteahouse.net/2011/01/11/ghar-ko-aag-lag-gayee-ghar-kay-chiragh-say/

  • To,

    Nawaz Sharif ka wakeel, Benazir ka sipaahi

    Iftikhar Chaudhry ka wakeel, Imran Khan ka hamraahi

    Our Indus saga hero, you cannot leave us alone.

    Sincerely,
    FCS

  • Blasphemy law: rally threatens long march

    LAHORE, Jan 30: A big rally here on Sunday warned of a long march to Islamabad if the government attempted to amend the blasphemy law.

    A large number of charged activists of religious parties representing all schools of thought amid tight security marched from Nasser Bagh to Charing Cross on The Mall where leaders of mainstream parties like PML-N, PML-Q, PML-Z and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf also joined them.

    Tehrik-i-Insaaf vice-president Ijaz Chaudhry pledged that his party would not allow any change in the blasphemy law. He demanded public execution of Raymond Davis.

    http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/31/blasphemy-law-rally-threatens-long-march.html

  • Aitzaz Ahsan likes to communicate in the vernacular also: this one is for his and everyone else’s consumption.

    O din dubba
    Jadon ghori charrhya kubba

  • Finally, urban civil society’s organisation (Citizens for Democracy – CFD) took notice of the absence of prosecutor in the Taseer murder case, and sent this letter (No such letter was written to leaders of the lawyers movement):

    ………

    Feb 6, 2011

    (1).
    To: President of Pakistan
    To: The Prime Minister of Pakistan

    We the undersigned express our deep dismay and outrage at the withdrawal of the public prosecutor from the Salmaan Taseer case on Feb 4. The prosecutor has reportedly said he was not given adequate protection. We find this to be an utterly unacceptable situation. It is indeed a sad day when a victim cannot find legal representation but many lawyers offer to represent a murderer, gratis.

    We demand that the assassinated Punjab Governor be provided appropriate legal representation by the State.

    We demand that both the Punjab and Federal governments immediately provide the prosecutor the requisite protection to enable him to appear in court and discharge his legal duties, and that action be taken against those who are threatening him.

    Expecting justice to be done and the rule of law to be followed

    Sincerely,
    CFD

    ……..

    However, as a commentator rightly noted on Twitter: The CFD’s letter is addressed to the President / Prime Minister. However, public prosecutor is a provincial government employee (just as Mumtaz Qadri was a Punjab government employee); security is the Punjab govt’s resp-why address PM/Pres not CM? Fishy business!

    It was also noted that CFD founding members include some interesting urban names, such as Ansar Burney. Mr Burney is the same person who filed petition to remove female judges becuase in his view female judges are not permitted in Islam.

    Judgement of Federal Sharia Court
    http://federalshariatcourt.gov.pk/Leading%20Judgements/Sh.Pet.No.K-4%20of%201992.pdf

  • @Farrukh: For the record: This letter was never sent, and while it was being considered, there was a discussion to add CM Punjab to the list of recipients.
    Secondly, Ansar Burney is not a founding member of CFD. He only endorsed the CFD stand.
    Would be good to get facts right before shooting off the hip. Thanks.

  • @Shakil: CFD founder members are Saleem Akhter (CPP), Beena Sarwar (journalist), Nasir Mansoor (LPP), Naeem Sadiq, Nasir Arain (concerned citizens), Nuzhat Kidvai (WAF), Noman Peter (NCJP), William Sadiq (Action Committee for Human Rights), Noman Quadri (student), Zeenia Shaukat, Zulfiqar Shah (Piler), Dr Habib Soomro, Dr Samrina Hashmi (PMA).

  • @beena sarwar Thank you for the information.

    Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to refrain from publishing a letter which was still under discussion in the internal list?

    Also, the tone and narrative of many of the CFD posts is unmistakably anti-PPP, just a coincidence or typical civil society pattern?

  • Moving, slowly, haltingly, towards justice

    Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad by Malik Mumtaz Qadri on January 4, 2011 in broad daylight. Qadri, who was part of Mr Taseer’s security detail, confessed that he had indeed killed the late governor. On Monday, an anti-terrorism court charged Qadri with terrorism and murder. Qadri was asked by the judge whether he intentionally killed Mr Taseer to which he said that he acted “in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah because he [Mr Taseer] had committed blasphemy”, thus his action was justified. The next hearing of the case is on February 26. It was decided that the court would now continue hearing of this case on a weekly basis.

    Finally we seem to be moving towards justice for Mr Taseer. This case is quite sensitive. Lawyers were unwilling to take up Mr Taseer’s case in view of the right-wing forces’ support for his assassin Mumtaz Qadri. The prosecutor had initially pulled out when the government did not provide adequate security. Fortunately, the situation has now been remedied. It is indeed brave of the state prosecutor and the judge to proceed with the case given the precarious security situation surrounding this case. Their courage has been strengthened by the shifting of the case to inside Adiala Jail after the troubling public manifestations of support for Qadri by right wing lawyers and others at his appearances emerged.

    The issue of blasphemy has always been a sensitive subject in Pakistan, especially after General Ziaul Haq tampered with the blasphemy laws and made the death penalty mandatory. Many people accused of blasphemy were killed by angry mobs or individuals before or during their trial. Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High Court was killed because he had acquitted two men accused of alleged blasphemy on the basis that the case against them could not be proved. Human rights organisations have been asking for repeal or amendment of this man-made and flawed law for decades now. In 2010, Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was handed down a death sentence for alleged blasphemy. She was the first woman to be given a death sentence in a blasphemy case. Aasia Bibi’s case led to an anti-blasphemy laws campaign once again. (Late) Salmaan Taseer visited her in jail in November last year. It opened up a Pandora’s Box and the religious right erupted in anger. Fatwas (edicts) were issued left, right and centre against Mr Taseer. In the end, he paid with his life for raising his voice against injustice. The death of a brave man should have jolted the people of Pakistan from their deep slumber. Instead, there was an unexpected reaction. Except for a small number of people, most Pakistanis either kept quiet on his death or hailed Qadri as a hero. The government’s spinelessness on the blasphemy issue strengthened the religious right, who then came out in large numbers to warn the government in case it ever decided to change or repeal the blasphemy laws. Finally, the government gave in to their demands and assured that no one will so much as even touch these flawed laws.

    On the day of his indictment, some students left flowers and Valentine’s Day gifts for Qadri at Adiala Jail. Two clerics — Hanif Qureshi and Ishtiaq Shah — whose sermons allegedly inspired Qari to commit this heinous crime, were also present outside the jail in support of Qadri. In the backdrop of all these events, it is commendable that despite threats and intimidation, the prosecution and the court are going ahead with the case and Qadri has been indicted for murder. The assassination of a serving governor, and that too one who at the risk of his life stood against injustice, is no small matter. It is hoped that the trial will continue without any further hurdles and the ends of justice will be served.

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20112\16\story_16-2-2011_pg3_1