Home Global Village Why the corrupt use of the Blasphemy law undermines all

Why the corrupt use of the Blasphemy law undermines all

Blasphemy law
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Asma Razaq |

“For me, blasphemy is when word of God and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are distorted. What could be more blasphemous than that?”

The above question was asked by Tehmina Durrani and goes on to define blasphemy excellently. Keeping this in mind along with recent incidents that will be discussed below, it is astonishing that so many different forms of injustice have passed without any action taken by the government. This article talks about the misuse of the blasphemy law and the much-needed reforms.

Reforms in the blasphemy laws are something a majority of people living in Pakistan are hesitant to talk about and this hesitation is not because they feel that the present laws are not justified, but because of the life-threatening fear that has been instilled in them.

Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code contains the provisions commonly referred to as the “blasphemy laws.” Section 295-B and Section 295-C merit death penalty for defiling the Holy Quran and use of derogatory and sacrilegious remarks about the Holy Prophet respectively.

With such turmoil and so many innocent lives lost, a specific question that constantly haunts my mind is ‘would anyone be so daring to fully support the move to bring a positive change in the existing blasphemy law or will we let this injustice prevail?

Since 1987, a total number of 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmedis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused and punished under the blasphemy laws, up until 2014, according to the data provided by National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

It is ironic that just the attempt to negotiate the blasphemy laws has portrayed itself to be a matter of life or death.  A well-known example is of Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab, who spoke up about the reforms needed in the existing blasphemy laws of Pakistan, in 2011, which led him to death. It is of no surprise that he was shot dead by his own security guard, Mumtaz Qadri.

Read more: Blasphemy & Terrorism: Tools to repress Opponents?

A recent move, by the Senate’s Special Committee on Human Rights, consists of a recommendation made that sentences of the death penalty for false allegations of blasphemy. It was stated that “anyone falsely accusing someone of blasphemy should be subjected to the same punishment as a person convicted of blasphemy.”

This can be considered an achievement towards amending the blasphemy laws; the ‘first initiative’ taken towards change, but it is nowhere near what is needed.  It is important to note that currently, the existing laws of blasphemy, subject the offender to several years in prison or death whereas the punishment against false accusations is just limited to either imprisonment for six months or a fine of Rs 1000.

Reforms in the blasphemy laws are something a majority of people living in Pakistan are hesitant to talk about and this hesitation is not because they feel that the present laws are not justified, but because of the life-threatening fear that has been instilled in them.

With such strict laws against such an act, it is unfortunate that Pakistan is the same country that has been pried upon by extremist Islamic groups for spreading violence and barbarism in the name of God. The same groups who use the laws of blasphemy in their own interests.  Further to this, a simple accusation of the crime is enough to cause an anarchic public reaction, with absolutely no evidence required to prove the allegations against the accused and no chance given to prove innocence. This begs the question; why has the country not made a single law for those who use blasphemy for personal incentives?

In 2014, a young Pakistani Christian couple,  Shama and Shahzad Masih, were beaten and burnt alive by a violent mob after being falsely accused of defiling the Holy Quran. Further to this, Mashal Khan, a 23 years old studying journalism was dragged out of his university accommodation and beaten to death by a mob. He was killed for fabricated allegations of blasphemy. Sadly, it does not end there. There are numerous other cases. Sawan Masih, who was accused of using sacrilegious remarks about the Holy Prophet in 2013, was sentenced to death without any proven evidence of blasphemy. Make no mistake, it is not just the public who portrays sudden emotional reactions towards the topic, but also our very own justice system which, is supposed to protect the innocent, is part of the problem.

Read more: The twist and turns of the Blasphemy law in Pakistan

With this in consideration, one of the biggest concerns is the lack of action taken by the Upper House. While being in the position to promote change, it has not shown any interest in the above-mentioned recommendations this has raised many questions after the incident of Sherry Rehman. The leader of Pakistan People’s Party, who submitted a bill to the National Assembly seeking to eliminate the death penalty from 295-C, was made to withdraw her bill.

It was simply a question of amending and reforming the blasphemy law but what she got in return was life-threatening calls, e-mails and a sense of prevailing insecurity.  Her own party refused to support her in the endeavor.

With such turmoil and so many innocent lives lost, a specific question that constantly haunts my mind is ‘would anyone be so daring to fully support the move to bring a positive change in the existing blasphemy law or will we let this injustice prevail?

Asma Razaq is a New York-based broadcast journalist. She can be reached at asma.umar972@gmail.com. Twitter @asmajournalist. The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.


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