His lust for blood remains unsatiated. He is locked up but not shut out. Before, he pulled the trigger on an unsuspecting man who had called for reform in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which enable exploitation and blatant victimisation of minorities and Muslims. Now, having his gun taken away from him and confined to a life inside prison, Mumtaz Qadri is selling poison to those around him, including policemen, encouraging them to kill blasphemy accused and convicts to please God. An internal inquiry report reveals that Muhammad Yousaf, a prison guard who shot Muhammad Asghar – a 70 year old British national and a paranoid schizophrenic sentenced to death on blasphemy charges – had spent two weeks guarding Qadri, who incited him to commit murder. The report further reveals that two other policemen were under Qadri’s influence and willing to hunt down prisoners accused or sentenced over blasphemy charges.

Qadri is not living the life of a convicted murderer. The prison is his safe abode, where he enjoys a rather special status, revered by fellow prisoners and the staff, who look towards him for religious guidance. Who is responsible for this serious security lapse, allowing Adiala jail to become Qadri’s little school of ignorance and violence? There are reports that Qadri has now taken his student Muhammad Yousaf into ‘protection’. Reports suggest that local clerics and seminary students provide Qadri with “men” to make it possible. Why is a convicted murderer being allowed to wield influence, wherein he is not only able to incite murder but also offer protection to those who obey? More importantly, who is giving him permission? Who is looking the other way? Pakistan’s prisons are no less chaotic and mismanaged than the situation outside them. They remain obscure, wanting for attention and reform, as matters go from bad to worse.

Perhaps the country’s courts, police, Parliament and the public at large should take responsibility for crimes committed against individuals in blasphemy cases. Judges who send both sane and mentally challenged individuals to jails despite insufficient evidence, police officials who negotiate with and protect zealots instead of taking them to task, parliamentarians whose lips remain sealed as tragedies unfold and the people who struggle to express outrage over crimes committed in the name of religion – everyone is responsible and no one is willing to acknowledge it. How we deal with such issues as a country is utterly disgraceful. And when someone actually dares to take a stand, like Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and Rashid Rehman – we shoot them dead and become heroes, aspiring more evil and carnage. The country’s elected Prime Minister will not side with the fallen nor will those who wish to oust him. Changing faces, it would appear, will not change the fate of victims.