South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

No action has been taken against the high ranking police officials responsible for hiring the killer of Salman Taseer and for allowing him to be a part of the assassinated governor’s security detail. Similarly, no questions have so far been raised amongst the killer’s colleagues, including the high police officials, about how they listened to him boasting that he was going to kill the governor three days before the assassination, but did nothing to prevent it from

happening or even report it. It was just 18 months ago that the assassin, Mumtaz Quadri, was declared a security risk by the Punjab police. It was decided then that he should be dismissed. How then is it possible that he was allowed to take up duties in Islamabad 270 KM away and more astoundingly, how could he have been transferred to the governor’s security detail?

Mumtaz even went so far as to boast about the details of the planned assassination. He told his colleagues, whose job it was to provide security for the governor, that he would shoot the governor as he came out from a restaurant.

The assassin was part of an elite police detail that comes under the Political command of Provincial Law Minister, Rana Sana Ullah. However, like the police officials, this minister has not been questioned as to how his control over this ‘elite’ detail could have been so lax as to allow a police officer, recognised as a security risk, to join the governor’s security detail. Likewise, no questions have been asked of the Minister for Home Affairs who is responsible for the situation of law and order and therefore, the police themselves.

There are many questions that have not been raised and until they are the responsibility for the governor’s death will be placed firmly on the assassin, Mumtaz Quadri. However, the responsibility for allowing this police officer of low rank to kill one of Pakistan’s true moderates goes as far up the ladder as the Minister for Home Affairs and touches each and every higher ranking police official in the province.

Another question that arises is to how a fair and impartial inquiry will be possible when, in fact, the culpable persons are the same high ranking police officers. They have a vested interest in making sure that Quadri is held solely responsible for his actions. However, what does this mean to the citizens who rely on the police for their security? If no command responsibility is enforced it means that each and every Police Constable will be held personally responsible for his

actions and the hierarchy of the police service will enjoy impunity. Who then can the citizens turn to?

This situation, unless it is firmly resolved by the higher authorities will lead to further destabilise the fabric of society. Unfortunately, what justice can be expected when the Federal Minister himself stated publically that if anyone blasphemed against the Prophet he would personally shoot him down? He went so far as to say that his ‘justice’ would be swift and merciless. In doing so, he is justifying Salman Taseer’s death. The statement has itself created a sense of insecurity in a society which is already very fragile due to the unchecked vandalism of fundamentalists and the persons running the Madressas.

The assassin has now been produced before different courts on two occasions. Disruption caused by his supporters, who showered him with rose petals, forced the first hearing to be postponed and a temporary court had to be set up. This in itself is a demonstration that the government is turning a blind eye to the actions of the fundamentalists and has no intention of reining them in.

The government of Punjab, particularly the chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, who is infamous for ordering extrajudicial killings, is conspicuously silent on the whole situation and has not moved to start any kind of inquiry against the provincial police who were responsible for the security of the governor. In fact, it is on record that during the two and a half years of his holding office, police officers close to him or the party leaders have carried out dozens of extra judicial

killings. Sharif has even awarded the officials who were involved in them. According to a report by the United States published in 1999 when he was chief minister between 1997 and 1999 around 850 suspected criminals were killed by the police.

It is due to political expediency that the brunt of the lawlessness that will result from the lack of any proper trial will be borne by society. Mumtaz Quadri, while obviously guilty of this assassination is being sacrificed by the government who is ultimately responsible for the death of Salman Taseer. In a country that is already reeling from the instability and religious fascism of the fundamentalists the lukewarm response of the government can only further destabilise the

fabric of society. The government must take positive action against the people that have declared Quadri as nothing less than a hero. How is it possible in a country that supposedly has rule of law that religious extremists hold their courts in the very streets and are allowed to announce publically that anyone speaking against the blasphemy laws would face the same fate as Salman Taseer? What justice can be expected when the ministers are diverting the blame onto the shoulders of one person and away from themselves?

The government must take matters into hand and follow the laws of the country, taking action against the religious extremists. The ministers who are shifting the blame for the assassination onto Quadri must be taken to task. Inquiries must be made as to their own culpability in this murder.

It has been observed by the Asian Human Rights Commission that civil society has never been so insecure and fragile as it is now due to the assassination of the governor and the government’s willingness to appease the extremists for its political expediency.