The Islamabad High Court has upheld the death sentence given to Malik Mumtaz Qadri who convicted of the murdering governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer after he had called for reform in the blasphemy law and supported Christian woman Aasia Bibi in 2011.

A two member bench comprising of Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui dismissed the appeal.

Former Lahore High Court chief justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif and retired Justice Mian Nazeer represented Qadri, who tried to justify the killing with Islamic grounds.

It was thought that his sentence would be reduced, and after the ruling it was announced that Qadri’s lawyers are going to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court, where Aasia Bibi’s appeal is ongoing.

Mumtaz Qadri, a former police officer, was convicted and sentenced to death by an antiterrorism court in 2011 for killing Salmaan Taseer but lawyers and the Islamic groups criticised the Judge, Syed Pervez Ali Shah’s decision, and surrounded his court eventually forcing him to flee the country.

Qadri confessed to the killing and had earlier submitted a written statement of 40 pages, referring to 11 Quranic verses, 28 quotes from Sunnah and several other eminent Muslim jurists with reference to Islamic jurisprudence.

The blasphemy law is considered a controversial law by Human rights groups and activists, and particularly by the minorities who consider it a root cause of their persecution in Pakistan.

The law is being widely misused as an excuse to attack churches and to burn Christian towns and villages. Many innocent people have been killed because of this law. Many people have been killed in mob violence and even burnt alive.

Nasir Saeed director of CLAAS-UK said it was surprisingly that the judges had upheld the original sentence.

He said: “It was expected that they would reduce Qadri’s sentence as many consider him a hero, and in light of what the first judge had to face.

“It is a very brave and diligent decision and it has raised the level of respect people have for the courts.

“Although Qadri’s lawyers are going to appeal against this decision, there is not much hope and hopefully justice will be done to Salmaan Taseer’s family and an example will be set for the future.”