Criticising Pakistan blasphemy laws not blasphemy: SC judge

Criticising Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws do not amount to committing blasphemy, a Supreme Court judge on Monday said.

Islamabad: Criticising Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws do not amount to committing blasphemy, a Supreme Court judge on Monday said.

Hearing an appeal against his death sentence by Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer for allegedly committing blasphemy, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that criticising a law does not amount to blasphemy.

Qadri, a former police commando, was given capital punishment by an anti-terrorism court for killing Taseer in 2011 and his appeal against the sentence has been rejected by the Islamabad High Court.

Justice Khosa, who headed a three-member bench hearing the appeal, adjourned the proceedings till tomorrow while Qadri's counsel was presenting his arguments.

The court also observed that the entire defence of Qadri will be irrelevant if his lawyer failed to prove that Taseer committed blasphemy.

Taseer was shot dead after he had criticised the blasphemy laws after visiting Asia Bibi, a Christian women convicted of blasphemy.

Qadri, who has already confessed his crime, said he killed Taseer because the former governor committed blasphemy by calling the laws "black laws."

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often triggering mob violence.

The controversial law was introduced by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq in 1980s and so far hundreds of people have been charged under them.

Nobody, however, has been hanged under the law. But extremist groups have killed several accused extra-judicially. 

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