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Unpacking the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan: Laws That Cast a Dark Shadow on Life of Minorities

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

Jinnah believed in secularism

Jinnah believed in secularism

Background

Pakistan was created out of India by the British who were intent on a policy of divide and rule. Muhamed Ali Jinnah had not demanded a state of Pakistan, and was dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister of a united India. Unfortunately for him, Patel and Nehru outsmarted him and he had to settle for a smaller state with two parts separated by almost 1000 miles of India. Religion cannot alone be a uniting factor, and ultimately, in 1971, the eastern part of Pakistan that was more secular and open broke away and formed Bangladesh.

A statement by Jinnah is worth reproducing here. He stated:

You will find that in the course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.

Muhamed Ali Jinnah was a secular individual. He commissioned the Hindu poet, Dr.Jagannath Azad, to write the first National Anthem of Pakistan. The anthem was sent to Jinnah, who approved it in a few hours. It was sung for the first time on Pakistan Radio, Karachi (which was then the capital of Pakistan) on 15th August 1947.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, Jinnah died a few months after independence and the Pakistan state lost its moorings and careered towards obscurantism and bigotry.

Thousands rally to uphold blasphemy laws VOA

Thousands rally to uphold blasphemy laws VOA

Fanaticism

The blasphemy law was drafted in 1860 when the British were the paramount power in India. The law was a copy of the English law and it is on record that there were hardly any convictions under this statute till 1947. The blasphemy law as codified under Section 295 was amended and the death sentence was made mandatory for anybody denigrating the Quran or the prophet. This was done during the rule of general Zia ul Haq and nobody had the courage after that to repeal it . Anybody who tried to get this draconian law amended like the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer was shot dead or murdered. The governor of Punjab, was killed by his own body guard for saying the blasphemy law needs to be amended. His guard was garlanded and showered with rose petals by Pakistani lawyers when he appeared in court and now has at least one mosque named after him.

Nobody can explain why blasphemy should be such an emotive issue in Pakistan when other Muslim nations in the world are not that much concerned about it. As per the latest report as published by the Pakistani government and the UN commission on human rights there at about 95 people on death row for blasphemy all over the world, out of them more than 80 are from Pakistan. Now here is the clincher, out of these 80 more than 50% are from the minorities namely the Shia, Ahmedis, and Christians. Nobody can explain this. The worst affected are Christians and Ahmadis who constitute just 1% of the population yet almost 30% are held under this draconian law.

Another facet of this is the extrajudicial killings of those accused under section 295(c). The extremists in Pakistan have tremendous support as can be seen from the fact that one Christian lady Aasiya Noreen was acquitted by the Supreme Court after 8 years on death row and freed from prison, violent demonstrations broke out all over the country asking her to be hanged. it was with great difficulty that the Pakistani government could send her into exile to Canada.


the-blasphemy-laws-in-pakistanan-eye-sore-in-the-muslim-world

Future

While the Supreme Court and other Pakistani officials have recognized the growing problem of false blasphemy accusations being used to target religious minorities, political leaders—under pressure from certain religious groups—have made no serious steps to repeal the blasphemy law. Prime Minister Imran Khan has even publicly defended it. In a July 2018 campaign speech to Muslim leaders in Islamabad, he stated, “We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” referencing the constitutional clause mandating the death penalty for blasphemy.

No Pakistani can explain why 85% of all those sentenced to death for blasphemy in the world are from Pakistan. Also why the majority are from the minorities.Amid abuse of the blasphemy laws and cases widely reported across Pakistan, the European Parliament has moved to withdraw Islamabad's GSP+ status on 26 July 2021.

There is however a positive point and that is till date no person has actually been executed and almost all of them just languish in prison. They are heavily guarded to to prevent vigilante justice from other prisoners.

Many right thinking people in Pakistan would like the laws to be watered down as they are giving a bad name to the country but there is little likelihood of it.

A Last Word

We must remember that Voltaire (1694-1778) philosopher, writer, and critic of the Ancien Régime with his writings shaped revolutionary ideology and to some extent was the inspiration of the French revolution of 1789. Hence it is important for writers to focus on social and religious evils like the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan and hope that at some stage enlightenment will dawn and these laws may be watered down. The Pakistan state should first abolish the death penalty and make the offense bailable.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_in_Pakistan

https://www.ipl.org/essay/The-Blasphemy-Law-In-Pakistan-PJ3ZELFGAQU

https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/national-laws-on-blasphemy-pakistan

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 30, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, this news is new to me and I didn't know. Derek Obrian is as we know the leader of the Trimul Congress. It is a revelation to learn about his relations in Pakistan

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 30, 2021:

Dear Pamela, so nice that you commented on this article. I am surprised that educated people from Pakistan try and bury this law into oblivion. However like Voltaire, something must be done about these draconian laws.

tom on July 30, 2021:

family of avm o brian converted to islam ,rest of family migrated to abroad,0brian relative of indian quiz master derek obrian

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 30, 2021:

This is an interesting article. MG. Even though no one has been killed under this law they are still spending their lives in prison, which seems ridiculous. That is a horrible law in my view. Thanks for sharing this information.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, needs courage to comment on such a volatile subject. I have been to Pakistan and many have told me the army has ruined the country. Apart from losing half the country, they are now in every field from construction to even manufacturing tea bags. So where can they have professional soldier qualities? So they back the mullah and Imamas and they hold the gun on poor people. Minorities are worst off and the Ahmadiyyas have not voted in an election for nearly 30 years. Just think an Ahmediyya calling himself a Muslim is hauled up under the draconian blasphemy law. Such a law exists in no other Muslim country. Yet Pakistan thrives. The west and even China have woken up to the menace in Pakistan. After the last attack and killing of 9 Chinese engineers, all work on belt and road project is halted.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2021:

Tom, yes the man who committed suicide was the Bishop of Lahore.John Joseph in 1998. He was protesting and highlighting the discrimination against Christians. The Anglo Indians including their seniormost Air Force Officer AVM Eric Hall also fled Pakistan when General Zia started his Islamization drive. The fact is general Zia had no political base and he drummed up support by taking the backing of extremists and obscurantist groups. He did great harm to Pakistan.

tom on July 29, 2021:

pakistan is for pakistan army ,country for army ,punjabi musulman army,christian countries had blasphemy laws,now repealed,two failed ideologies islam and communism,sikhs were presecuted by mughals,condition of sikhs bad in pakistan,west is now anti muslim,uae liberaland secular,muslim fanaticsm rising in kerala ,it has caused strong anti muslim sentiment

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2021:

Femi, thank you. What is the law in Nigeria?

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2021:

Thank you mary for your comment. Best of luck and take care.

femi from Nigeria on July 29, 2021:

Hmmmm.

Mary Joseph on July 29, 2021:

Thank you for a wonderful article that has highlighted what Pakistan really is. I am so glad I am not in Pakistan but in the UAE another Muslim nation where there is not a single prisoner for blasphemy.

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