“Hindustan had become free, Pakistan had become independent but man was still slave in both these countries, slave of prejudice, religious fanaticism, barbarity and inhumanity.” These are the words of the champion of black humour and short story writing, Saadat Hasan Manto. Manto’s writings were daring, prophetic and visionary; he was a wizard with a pen who was at least five to six decades ahead of his contemporaries. In his work, he correctly predicted that over time religious fanaticism will surge in Pakistan and the country will become hostage to prejudices, extremism, intolerance and barbarism.Religion is a celestial and divine reality, no power on earth can change its spirit, it is impervious to external pressures. Religion like a concrete sea rock remains unaffected and unchanged even by the ruthless and violent strikes of time and tide. Whenever, the clergy and the political leadership raise a hue and cry telling people that religion is under serious threat, it’s usually all deception, treachery and political manoeuvring. Religion is rarely ever under any kind of threat; in fact, the vested social, economic and political interests of those, claiming religion is endangered. A few weeks ago a rally for celebrating the ouster of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, was held in the famous Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi by Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed. Keeping in mind the fact that Imran Khan and the top leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were part of the rally and also that Sheikh Rasheed enjoys a limited vote bank in Rawalpindi, one can safely assume that the rally primarily comprised the PTI voters and supporters. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, famous for inappropriate, offensive and metaphorical content of his speeches, while addressing the rally, outrageously and bluntly claimed that Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of former Governor of Punjab, is a Shaheed.Expressing such an opinion on a public forum is untoward and exceedingly shameful, Manto was absolutely right; our society has become hostage to religious extremism. A rabble rouser, who always dances on the tunes of opportunism and is an ally of a major political party, is now lionizing a convicted terrorist for expanding his political clout in constituency of Rawalpindi. Mumtaz Qadri was convicted for murder and terrorism based on sound legal reasoning, calling him a Shaheed is legally untenable. Under criminal law, in order to establish a criminal liability in relation to an offence, two ingredients are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt i.e. Actus Reus (the guilty act) and Mens Rea (the guilty mind). In Mumtaz Qadri’s case, the Supreme Court held that the Actus Reus of Qadri, involving firing at Taseer and causing his death, squarely fell within the ambit of S6(2)(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997; and the Mens Rea contemplated by S6(1)(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 is proved by considering Qadri’s statement before the Trial Court under S.342, CrPC ie “the murder of Taseer was a lesson for all the apostates”. The aforesaid legal reasoning by the Supreme Court clearly establishes that Qadri was not only a murderer under section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) but was also a terrorist under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.The masses especially the educated class will consider silence on PTI’s part as acquiescence, acceptance or affirmation of Sheikh Rasheed’s appalling opinionApart from being legally indefensible, the act of declaring Mumtaz Qadri a “Shaheed”is morally reprehensible and criminally liable as the same amounts to justifying Taseer’s murder, exalting a terrorist and inciting others to adapt the path of vigilante justice chosen by Qadri. Such a statement is exceedingly pernicious especially in a society where the bulk of blasphemy cases are based on false allegations stemming from property issues or personal feuds. The case of Mashal Khan is a living example in front of us; there is little difference between those who instigated mob violence against Mashal and those who glorify Qadri and openly declare him as a “Shaheed”. Sheikh Rasheed’s support of a terrorist who was hanged by the state is abominable and tantamount to challenging the writ of the government.Nowadays, Sheikh Rasheed is singing the praises of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for ousting Nawaz Sharif both from National assembly and Prime Minister Office. The use of the ‘Godfather’ Analogy by Justice Khosa in the Panama verdict, for the opposition, has become a symbol of triumph, an anthem of success and a weapon for shaming Nawaz Sharif. Sheikh Rasheed needs to bear in mind that Qadri was declared a murderer and terrorist by the same Justice Khosa whilst sitting in Supreme Court in 2016. His remarks give a reasonable impression that Rasheed’s adherence to rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism is selective, subjective and duplicitous.Calling Mumtaz Qadri a Shaheed is an insult, to the military and police officials, to all the brave politicians, to the lawyers of Quetta, to the students of Army Public School and to the thousands of Pakistani citizens who have suffered at the hands of terrorists.I really wonder how the educated and moderate leadership of PTI tolerates Sheikh Rasheed, as per my observation, Imran Khan and the majority of the PTI leadership do not share his sentiments regarding Qadri. Keeping in mind the fact that PTI didn’t disassociate itself from the opinion of Sheikh Rasheed, the masses especially the educated class will consider silence on PTI’s part as acquiescence, acceptance or affirmation of Sheikh Rasheed’s appalling opinion. The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore Published in Daily Times, August 30th 2017.