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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Why punishing the Sialkot culprits in not enough?

A Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, who was working as a manager at a private factory in Sialkot, was beaten to death and his body was later set on fire by a mob over alleged blasphemy. Once again in Pakistan, the blasphemy law has been wrongly used to incite the public into committing the unspeakable, atrocious act against a foreign guest.

The blasphemy law was once again wrongly used to incite the public into committing the unspeakable, atrocious act against a foreign guest. That the government has taken prompt actions against the perpetrators of the heinous act is good but by itself, it is not enough. More needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. It is important that the Sialkot culprits must be punished as soon as possible but this measure is not enough to ensure to something like this has never happen again.

One wishes the current blasphemy Law is revisited to prevent its misuse, but in the current environment that will not be possible. Alternately, perhaps enacting necessary legislation on how to handle the blasphemy charges may considerably reduce its exploitation.

Read more: Police register cases against lawyers for attacking AC office in Sialkot

The following should be considered:

a. A special Federal Court suitably named be constituted to specifically handle only blasphemy cases. It should comprise three members, one each from the Barelvi, Deobandi and Ahle Tashi schools of thought. It would have the mandate of handling all blasphemy charges, conducting investigation and trial if warranted. Its verdict may be challenged by an appellate court, preferably manned by a bench of the Supreme Court.

b. To put the Ulemas at ease the three members could be selected from the panel of the Federal Shariat Court. This would also dissuade the misguided clerics from inciting a mob to threaten the judges employed in the current system because now the bench would be from their own setup.

c. A person or a group accusing another of committing blasphemy must approach only the special court so designated for justice. Any action of inciting the public and instigating them to take the law into their hand must be declared a crime and the instigator tried under the anti-terrorism act. And if the action leads to loss of property or life, the death penalty should be invoked.

Read more: The graveyard of Indian tanks: the battles in the Sialkot sector in the 1965 war

According to Imam Abu Hanifa, the blasphemy law is not applicable to non-Muslims. A majority of Sunni Muslims in Pakistan are Hanafis and follow the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifa. The British had enacted the blasphemy laws applicable to all the Indian subjects under British rule. This continued even after Pakistan became independent and was only amended by General Zia ul Haq. Perhaps, with some modifications, the British crafted blasphemy laws could be enacted for the non-Muslims in the country.


Air Cdre (Retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh), and national newspapers including Dawn, The News, and The Nation. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.