Killer of blasphemy accused gets death

FAISALABAD, April 18: An anti-terrorism court on Monday sentenced to death a man who had gunned down two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy. The court also imposed a fine of Rs4 million.

Maqsood alias Soodi had been convicted of killing Sajid and his brother Rashid and injuring police inspector Mohammad Hussain on July 7 last year.

The convict was also sentenced to 10-year imprisonment each under Section 7-C of the ATA and 324 of the PPC and a fine of Rs200,000. Under Section 337-D, he will pay Rs500,000 Arsh (compensation) to the injured inspector and serve a 10-year term.

In July last year, the Civil Lines police had registered a blasphemy case against the two brothers on charges of distributing handwritten blasphemous pamphlets and arrested them.

Maqsood had killed the brothers near the City Police Office when a police team was taking them to the Civil Lines police station after producing them in a court.

By Our Staff Correspondent | From the Newspaper

What about the murdered kids?

Dilip Simeon
February 4, 2011

The recent controversy over the Supreme Court’s January 21 judgement on the Graham Staines murder is revealing. To begin with, Justices P. Sathasivam and B. S. Chauhan saw fit to make certain gratuitous remarks: “the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity”.

It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better.” It’s not clear whether they’re saying there were such grounds for complaint against Staines ( the Wadhwa Commission found “no extraordinary increase in the Christian population in Keonjhar district between 1991 and 1998”); or if the judges were merely saying that Dara Singh believed Staines to be converting people.

Be that as it may, following protests by Christian organisations and members of civil society, the judges modified their judgement on January 25. They deleted the reference to Dara Singh’s intentions; and replaced it with the following: “more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed, we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the High Court need not be enhanced…” It also replaced the references to “interference in someone’s belief by way of ‘ use of force’, provocation…” etc., with the sentence “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.” Christian organisations welcomed the judges’ decision to expunge or modify the two sentences, but the matter still carries grave implications.

The issue is not the rights and wrongs of conversion, which may be debated, but the citation of communal animus as a justification for murder. Undoubtedly some Christian evangelical groups use objectionable language and means to convert people.

They can be countered by civic protest and legal proceedings – there are several laws regulating religious conversion. The issue before the Court was an act of pre-meditated murder, in which there were not one, but three victims. We are talking about the law, and section 302, IPC. The SC’s modification remains tinged with sinister implications. It would appear that the change was made with regard to offended sentiment, rather than in recognition of a flawed argument.

While the decision to spare Dara Singh’s life is a welcome one, the reasoning supplied by the honourable Justices is disturbing.

They say, “there is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.” The reference to religion has been watered down, but remains. The implications are that 1/ Staines was indeed so interfering – for which there was no official complaint, nor reference in the Wadhwa Commission report; and 2/ that communal animus is a mitigating (rather than exacerbating) factor in pre-meditated murder.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the judges have rendered invisible (as regards the punishment meted out to the culprit) the deaths of two little boys, Timothy aged 6, and Philip, aged 10. Even if Graham Staines was indulging in objectionable activity, he did not deserve to be murdered for his sins. And even if the Staines’ were Christian evangelists, their children could hardly be guilty of offending any law or anyone’s religious sentiments. If the extenuating factors relating to conversion apply to the murder of Graham Staines, what factors could possibly attenuate the crime of burning alive two small boys? The judges have allowed their consciences to erase even the natural sympathy we feel about their terrible plight.

Their comments – before and after their modification – are tantamount to blaming the victims for their fate. They violate the spirit of the Constitution and the norms of human decency; and they add weight to the normalisation of violence in the Indian polity.

Judges are not elected officials. The judicial conscience is separate from public belief insofar as it cannot be led by popular prejudice or stereotypical modes of thought. One such stereotype is manifested in the doctrine of collective guilt that may be found, for example, in the Biblical accusation that the blood of Christ lies upon the heads of all Jews till eternity. More generally, it vests in the idea that the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons. This is one of the most noxious ideas in human history, and has found its way into every form of communal ideology. Early in 1985, I heard a justice of the Delhi High Court say something similar in response to the PUDR petition praying for the registration of cases in the matter of the carnage of Delhi’s Sikh citizens in November 1984.

The judge dismissed the prayer, saying, as he did so, that “there was a background to the killings.” He was alluding to the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. By speaking thus, he was alluding to the idea of collective guilt.

There is indeed a background to everything, but surely no thoughtful person, let alone a judge, can argue that a crime committed by a member of this or that religious group somehow taints every member of the criminal’s community. For a judge to suggest that communal hatred diminishes the gravity of a heinous crime is a travesty of justice.

The Supreme Court recently asked a minister to be temperate in his speech.

Their own choice of words carries far more weight than that of any minister.

Judges derive their authority from the seats they occupy, and society’s trust in their fair- mindedness and wisdom. The Bench is superior to the persons who temporarily occupy it. That is why there is a constitutional provision for the impeachment of judges. It is within the realm of possibility that judges can commit contempt of court. The Staines’ judgement comes close to exemplifying such contempt. The learned Justices could have endorsed the judgement of the High Court and left it at that. But they chose to act otherwise.

The central danger to the Indian polity is communalism, and it works via ideas and prejudice, not organisational affiliation.

The Kandhamal cases, arising out of events initiated by the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda by Maoists in 2008, and followed by an orgy of collective retribution upon poor Christian villagers, will be adversely affected by this judgement. If our highest judges wittingly or otherwise provide barely- disguised legitimation for criminal deeds, our Constitution is doomed. Speaking out against this judgement is the least we can do to atone for the cruelty with which little Timothy and Philip were deprived of their innocent lives.

Father and Son get Life for blasphemy

Court convicts imam, son for blasphemy

MULTAN: A court has jailed an imam and his 20-year-old son for life on blasphemy charges in Muzaffargarh, court officials said on Tuesday.

The case follows the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his bodyguard last Tuesday, after he called for reform of the law that was recently used to sentence a *Christian woman to death.

Muhammad Shafi, 45, and his son Muhammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village which allegedly contained Quranic verses.

Judge Muhammad Ayub, heading an anti-terrorism court, handed down a life sentence to the pair on Monday, his assistant Faisal Karim told AFP by telephone.

The prosecution alleged organisers of the event, which commemorated the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birth, said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet”, Karim said. “The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each,” he said.

Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-faith rivalries, he said. afp

* Aasia Bibi

Lawyers, civil society appreciate LHC ruling on honour killings

Staff Report

LAHORE: Legal experts and members of the Civil Society have cautiously appreciated a Lahore High Court (LHC) ruling declaring murder to protect a woman’s honour as ‘no crime’.

Two men who were accused of killing a man, who had tried to commit rape, were acquitted by the LHC on Thursday. The accused, Ghulam Nabi and his son Iftikhar, residents of a village in Daska, had murdered Yasin who had forcefully entered their house and tried to rape their female relative. Previously, the trial court had sentenced them both to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000 each.

Criminal law expert Advocate Aftab Bajwa told Daily Times that the order would help reduce the victimisation of women, adding that a similar decision had been made by the LHC in Ashiq Ali versus the state in 1972. He said Article 96, 97 and 100 of the Pakistan Penal Code also provided for the right to self-defence and the defence of one’s property.

Licence to kill: Free Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (FLAAS) Chairman Advocate Anis AA Saadi appreciated the order and said criminals should be discouraged at every level. He said such judgements would discourage attackers in a society where incidents of sexual assault were increasing every day. He said murder was an inhuman act, but the right of self-defence must be present with the woman and her relatives. However, he said the case had presented a particular situation that was complex: the judgement must not be taken as a ‘licence’ to kill a man under the garb of honour.

Similar rulings: Representatives of the civil society said the case did not present anything new, adding that thorough investigations were necessary before the defence of self-defence was allowed.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) member Dr Mehdi Hassan told Daily Times the LHC ruling was not new and many such cases had yielded similar rulings in the past.

Proper procedure: Women Action Forum (WAF) convener Gulnar Tabassum said there was a proper procedure to establish self-defence. “If there is proper evidence, and the investigation is completed, then surely a person who murdered someone in self-defence can be declared innocent,” she said.

However, she maintained that it was the responsibility of the police to establish law and order, and citizens should not take the law into their own hands. ASR Resource Centre Executive Director Nighat Saeed Khan said murder in any situation was a crime, but there was an entire process to determine whether a person did it in self-defence.

“Honour killing” punishable under Islamic law: Shariat Court

Shaheed Bibi Shamshida: Charthawal
Shaheed Bibi Farzana: Sarai Rasulpur

Muzaffarnagar (PTI): Close on the heels of three cases of suspected honour killings in the district, a Shariat Court here has ruled that such crimes should be treated as murder and are punishable under Islamic law.

“Islam does not permit illicit relationship, but killing a girl for this reason is a cold-blooded murder and is a serious offence under the Islamic law,” chairman of Shariyat Court Maulana Irfan Mufti Zulfikar said.

The court made this observation on an application moved by a social activist highlighting recent cases in which three girls were allegedly killed by their kin “to protect family honour”.

Killing of an innocent girl is a shameful act, members of the religious court observed.

Last month, a 17-year-old girl (Shaheed Bibi) Shamshida was killed allegedly by her brother Shamshuddin in Charthawal town for eloping with her lover who belonged to a different community.

Police arrested Shamshuddin who “confessed” to killing his sister Shamshida for “tarnishing the family’s name”, the police said.

On November 14, another girl (Shaheed Bibi) Farzana, 18, who had eloped with her lover, was murdered allegedly by her brother at Sarai Rasulpur village in the district.

Father asked to pay maintenance to daughter

Staff Report

LAHORE: Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed one Maqsood Ali to pay Rs 2,000 per month as maintenance allowance to his 21-year-old daughter, Misbah Kausar.

The judge also held that Ali should bear all expenses of Misbah’s marriage.

The judge issued the directions on a petition by Ali, challenging a lower court order that he should pay maintenance allowance to his daughter.

The girl had filed a suit in April for recovery of the maintenance allowance from her father. Ali said that he had paid his former wife for the girl’s expenditures. He said that his daughter could not claim allowance as she was not inclined to live with him.

Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi doubled the allowance, and directed the father to pay it from now onward.

Very Biblical

Court orders Iranian man blinded

A court in Iran has ruled that a man who blinded a woman with acid after she spurned his marriage proposals will also be blinded with acid.

The ruling was reported in Iranian newspapers on Thursday.

The punishment is legal under the Islamic Sharia code of Qias or equivalence, which allows retribution for violent crimes.

The court also ordered the attacker, 27-year-old Majid Movahedi, to pay compensation to the victim. The acid attack took place in 2004.

The victim, Ameneh Bahrami, went to Spain for surgery to reconstruct her face but efforts to restore her sight failed. The ruling was a response to her plea to the court in the Iranian capital Tehran for retribution.

“Ever since I was subject to acid being thrown on my face, I have a constant feeling of being in danger,” she told the court. Ms Bahrami said that Movahedi had also threatened to kill her.

Syed Ehtisham: