On the front page of The News on Wednesday, Ansar Abbasi makes the shocking revelation that Naval Chief Admiral (R) Saeed Muhammad Khan, under whose oversight the controversial purchase of French Agosta submaries took place, has told the court investigating the scandal that it wasn’t his fault. It must be an interesting world that Ansar Abbasi inhabits if someone accused of misconduct denying that they were responsible is considered newsworthy. It also says something about Jang Group‘s editorial judgment.
What speaks more to both Ansar Abbasi’s mentality and Jang Group‘s editorial judgment, however, is what appeared on the same day on the front page of Daily Jang – Mumtaz Qadri ko saza, Adalat nay riasat kee nakami nazarandaz kardi (Mumtaz Qadri Sentenced: Court Ignores Failure of the State).
In this piece, Ansar Abbasi writes not about French submarines, but Mumtaz Qadri. According to Abbasi, Salmaan Taseer was murdered because the PPP government refused to punish him when he, “told a woman who had been sentenced to death by a court for blasphemy that she had not committed blasphemy, calling the blasphemy law as ‘black’ law, and asking for forgiveness for a woman who is proven guilty of blasphemy”.
Ansar Abbasi is wrong on the facts. Asia Bibi was accused of blasphemy by some people who she had an ongoing feud with. On that fateful day, a fight erupted over a glass of water.
The argument started on a hot summer’s day in June 2009 as Aasia Bibi picked falsa berries – a purple fruit used to make squash – with her Muslim neighbours. She brought them water to drink; they refused to touch her glass because she was a Christian. A vicious row ensued, although what was exactly said remains a matter of contention.
Bibi’s accusers say she flung vile insults at Islam and the prophet Muhammad. “She got very annoyed,” recalls Maafia. “But it was normal. We could not drink from that glass. She is Christian, we are Muslim, and there is a vast difference between the two. We are a superior religion.”
According to the Asia Bibi, though, she did not make any insults to Islam or the prophet. Not only did Asia Bibi deny that she had made any insults to Islam, she even swore on the Bible that she had not committed blasphemy which as a Christian would be the highest oath. Rather than accept her oath, the crowd threatened her if she refused to convert to Islam.
It should be noted that Surat Al-Baqarah (2:256) says, “la ikrah fi’d-din” (There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion).
Salmaan Taseer did not tell Asia Bibi that she had not committed blasphemy. What he said was that the case was controversial and that her accusers were lacking evidence. According to a news report at the time:
Taseer said that he did not want to interfere in the judicial proceeding, but he would do as much as he could in his capacity to make sure that she does not get punished for a crime she said she had not committed.
It should be noted also that according to al-Tirmidhi (1011), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “it is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.”
Additionally, what Ansar Abbasi terms as ‘one of the most holy (muqadas) laws’ is actually not without controversy. The Council of Islamic Ideology recommended several amendments to the law, saying that as it was written it was open to misuse.
“It should be made obligatory for the complainant to produce concrete evidence to substantiate the charges while lodging a First Information Report with the police.
The accused persons must be given the right of defence through a legal adviser and a First Class magistrate should supervise the police investigations prior to the registration of the case,” according to the proposal.
Blasphemy cases should be tried by the High Courts, members of the CII have observed in the document.
Asia Bibi’s case was not handled in a manner that complied with these recommendations. No concrete evidence was lodged against Asia Bibi, the police handled her case as if she was assumed guilty from the beginning, and her sentence was given by a district court, not a High Court.
But Ansar Abbasi not only distorts the facts, he distorts logic also.
According to Abbasi, Salmaan Taseer was out of line to question Asia Bibi’s guilt or innocence once the court handed down its decision. Ansar Abbasi says that “because the State was silent on the governors extremely controversial speeches” it “forced a sad/upset (mayoos) citizens to kill Salman Taseer and take the law in his own hands”.
Abbasi complains that “even after all the demonstrations, protests and rallies, the federal government did not take any steps”. But this is supposed to be a country that respects the rule of law, not the rule of mobs.
But has Mumtaz Qadri not been tried, convicted, and sentenced also? By Ansar Abbasi’s own logic, should he himself not be shot down in the street by some mayoos shehri who disagrees with him? Obviously not. Mumtaz Qadri was tried, convicted, and sentenced, but he still has a right of appeal. And even after his appeal, he has the right to petition for a presidential pardon. Ansar Abbasi tries to justify the difference by arguing that “though the ATC court judge knew that Mumtaz Qadri did not have anything personal with Salman Taseer, he still wrapped up this case like a normal murder case”. In other words, the social context of the case should be taken into consideration when judging whether someone deserves a sentence of death. But isn’t this exactly what Salmaan Taseer was saying about Asia Bibi’s case?
What it seems to come down to is that Ansar Abbasi supports Mumtaz Qadri and believes he was justified in murdering Salmaan Taseer because of extenuating circumstances, namely that the government would not punish Taseer for him. It also seems that Ansar Abbasi is too cowardly to say this directly, so instead he begins his piece by stating that “any one person cannot be given such authority over such a person because this will spread lawlessness, anarchy, unease and panic in the society” and then proceeds to justify exactly the “lawlessness, anarchy, unease and panic” that he warns.
So Ansar Abbasi is wrong on the facts, and he is wrong on the theory also. But what about Jang Group? For their English-medium audience, Ansar Abbasi and Jang Group serve up corruption accusations against PPP based on the self-serving statement (whether true or not) of an accused man. For the awam, Ansar Abbasi and Jang Group have saved the real masala – a front page article telling that Mumtaz Qadri was forced to murder Salmaan Taseer because the PPP government refused to punish him for defending a blasphemer.
Ansar Abbasi’s extremist sympathies are well documented. Does Jang Group continue projecting these views out of ideological sympathy, or are they using Ansar Abbasi as their Media Taliban in a proxy war against the PPP government? These are the facts. You decide.
[CORRECTION:] An English version of Ansar Abbasi’s piece about Mumtaz Qadri did appear in The News (Jang Group) on Wednesday also. We missed this in our original post because the piece was published on page 12, with a second Ansar Abbasi piece about French submarine scandal on page 1. While we regret the mistake, we do not believe that it affects the substantive analysis in the post. We thank our dear reader for bringing this to our attention.
Islamabad (Ansar Abbasi) ATC delivered the death sentence to Mumtaz Qadri and reinforced the law that punishing someone is the responsibility of the State not an individual, but very simply overlooked failure and the laziness of the State which were the reasons for the death of the former governor. In a 12 page verdict delivered by the ATC, it was mentioned that a proved blasphemer is ‘duty to kill’ (wajib-ul-qatl) and no one can forgive him except for the prophet himself and raised these two fundamental questions: First, can a person who lives a sinful life be called as an apostate (murtad) and second, if that is the case, who is responsible for punishing him? The verdict answered these questions itself. The answer is that no one person can be given the firm authority to decide upon any particular person is he/she is an apostate or a non-Muslim. Furthermore any one person cannot be given such authority over such a person because this will spread lawlessness, anarchy, unease and panic in the society. Nevertheless, the verdict does not mention anything about the laziness and failure of the state in handling the situation created after controversial steps taken and speeches made by Salman Taseer. And this was the actual reason for death of former governor Punjab at the hands of Mumtaz Qadri. Although ATC judge said rightly that no one person can take the law in his own hands, he completely ignored what Salman Taseer did. Judge did not talk about the controversy created by Salman Taseer with reference to the disconnect showed by the federal government, the President and the Prime Minister. Based on these reasons why was the role of government not brought up and also neither was this basic fundamental question answered which asked if State was the true responsible entity for death of Salman Taseer. Former governor of Punjab visited the Lahore jail and did a press conference with Aasia Bibi who had already been sentenced to death by the Session Court under blasphemy law. Being the leader of the province Salman Taseer told a woman who had been sentenced to death by a court for blasphemy that she had not committed blasphemy, calling the blasphemy law as ‘black’ law, and asking for forgiveness for a woman who is proven guilty of blasphemy, Salman Taseer had to face the reaction from entire Pakistan. Salman Taseer had said that he would take the case up to the president who has the power of the law to grant her pardon. He also said that he had studied the case of Aasia bibi in detail and found out that she is not deserving of the blasphemy law verdict handed to her. According to this and his press conference, he himself had not accepted the decision of the court even though he was the legal leader of the province, called one of the most holy (muqadas) laws as a black law, and tried to get forgiveness for a death sentenced woman under blasphemy law which according t the ATC court is not even possible. Just like the president, the governor also cannot be tried that is the reason why Salman Taseer couldn’t be caught. Even though there were protest rallies all over the country and he was asked for resignation. Anyways, even after all the demonstrations, protests and rallies, the federal government did not take any steps. Salman Taseer was not condemned on any of his speeches by any government department/institutions, President or the Prime Minister. The verdict delivered by ATC does not mention any of this disconnect from the state, which forced a sad/upset (mayoos) citizens to kill Salman Taseer and take the law in his own hands because the State was silent on the governors extremely controversial speeches. Even though the ATC court judge knew that Mumtaz Qadri did not have anything personal with Salman Taseer, he still wrapped up this case like a normal murder case