There is ample room for disagreement with what Abira Ashfaq wrote in her article “Let Mumtaz Qadri live”
But let us just concentrate on what she said while replying to the readers’ comments:
“Asiya Bibi should not be killed and the blasphemy laws removed. Qadri similarly should not [be] killed.”
I say it’s not a bad idea at all if Asiya’s life can be legally saved with the blasphemy laws duly removed once and for all, as they should be, then and only then as a quid pro quo Qadri may not be hanged.
But as things stand today in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is it even remotely possible?
Unfortunately not – especially the removal of blasphemy laws and as a result of this, Asiya, or for that matter any other future victim of this black law, living a normal life. Conversely, the prospects may not be as bad for (any) Qadri whose sentence may not be carried out anyways even if the ATC ruling is not overturned by a higher court.
This is so because sadly, our fake civil society, representative polity and the state – the present government being no exception barring the martial law regimes of which we have had four – have not been able to assert their moral, democratic and legal authority ever since the black days of military dictator Gen Zia, who was responsible for making what the blasphemy laws read today. [Devoid of any moral, democratic and legal authority themselves, the military dictators never had to care about any of these values or principles of civilian supremacy.]
We have in our midst, technically in every home, many Qadris of the future, nurtured thanks to the Islamiyat, Pakistan Studies/Ideology, or whatever they call it, being taught in our schools and colleges. As a nation we continue to turn a blind eye to this silent killer of a phenomenon and covertly accept this slow poisoning that is responsible for the bigotry, militancy, radicalism we are witnessing every day around us and that is further eroding whatever little dreams, aspirations and values of a secular, tolerant, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan are contemplated by a thinking few.
Interestingly enough, the call for blanket abolition of death penalty will be as vehemently opposed by our religious, political and legal “Qadris” as the removal of the blasphemy laws owing to their dubious, unsubstantiated and funny, as it may sound, “non-negotiable” interpretation of religion. Most opportunistic as it is, they like to see Qadri live not because of but despite this “abolish-the-death-penalty” call by our liberals.
So whether the author wants the death penalty abolished to reprieve Qadri or advocates that Qadri should live because death penalty is unfair – in both cases it makes for a strange blend, nay unholy marriage, of populism and militancy. For without the removal of the blasphemy laws, the abolition of death penalty per se would get us nowhere. Unless these radical bigots are stopped by law from exercising their self-granted license to kill with impunity, the abolition of death penalty, under any guise or garb, would be as meaningless as it would be counter-productive.
However, my “faithless” mind may start believing in miracles if by some quirk of fate or luck, the Qadri episode can become a test case for the removal of the man-made blasphemy laws.
Only, and only, if that could be negotiated as a quid pro quo, letting this cold-blooded murderer live, will not be a high price!