PAKISTAN: Government sends a judge abroad to appease extremist religious groups 

The unspoken message is also clear: that the judiciary can expect no help from the government for carrying out their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the land.

The government’s policy to appease the militant religious organizations and Jihadis is continued in the clear cut violation of the constitution and the law. Once again the government has revealed its impotency to fight against growing religious intolerance. The government has also exposed its powerlessness to provide security to its own citizens by sending a judge of the Sessions Court to Saudi Arabia with his family. This was the judge who awarded the death sentences in two cases to Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of the Punjab Governor, Salaman Taseer. The judge has left for Saudi Arabia along with his family after receiving death threats from extremists.

According to a special prosecutor, Mr Saiful Malook, as reported in Daily Dawn, the death threats have forced Judge Pervez Ali Shah to leave the country along with his family. Malook said the government, on the reports of law enforcement agencies, opted to send him abroad. Judge Pervez Ali, as the Judge of Anti-Terrorist Court, handed down the death sentences to Qadri on October 1, 2011 following a trial that took place behind closed doors in the high-security Adiyala prison in Rawalpindi, Punjab province.

Qadri had earlier confessed in court that he had killed Salman Taseer for his blasphemous statements.

After the announcement of the judgment many religious parties and groups were protested against the decision by holding violent demonstrations, rallies and setting fire to public properties. The religious groups which included banned militant religious parties, have been pressing the government to remove Judge Mr. Shah from his post. They also announced a head money for the killing of the Judge as they had previously done for the killing of Salman Taseer before his murder.

Besides the religious groups the lawyers, particularly the Rawalpindi Bar Association, also quickly reacted to the decision against the killer and agitated inside and outside the district courts including the High Court of Islamabad, threatening the judges with dire consequences if they did not rescind the death sentences on Qadri.

The government’s indifferent attitude about the death threats from the militant religious groups was evident in the fact that it ordered the deployment of only two policemen to protect the special prosecutor, who is also continuously receiving death threats from the religious parties.

The collapse of the rule of law is very much exposed by the sending of a judge outside the country by the government itself. The government is sending a clear message to the judiciary that while they can make decisions on merit and the law they should also follow the dictates of the extremist elements. The unspoken message is also clear: that the judiciary can expect no help from the government for carrying out their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the land.

The ongoing policy of appeasement by the government is slowly but very surely destroying any hope of democracy and the rule of law in Pakistan. Prior to the assassinations of the governor of Punjab and the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs the religious groups announced the head money for the killing of the governor. This was highlighted in the statement of the AHRC in which we urged the government to take action against the religious extremists. Sadly, this was ignored and the situation even now is deteriorating. To what depths the government is prepared to allow it to fall is known only to them. What is plainly evident is that no citizen can expect protection from the government if it will bring the government into conflict with the extremists. Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan makes the state responsible for providing security to life and liberty to its citizens. The article states that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty save within accordance with the law.

By allowing the religious groups a free hand they are strengthening them every day and at the same time weakening their own position by making it clear to all that the laws of the country and the articles of the Constitution do not apply to these extremists. The son of Salman Taseer has now been abducted by an extremist group and the Federal Minister for the Interior has announced that he is alive and being held in Waziristan but the government does not appear to be actively engaged in seeking his safe release.

The question now is: how many citizens and their families, regardless of whether they are judges or not, can the government of Pakistan afford to send to Saudi Arabia?

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-160-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Freedom of religion, Rule of law,