Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blasphemy: No One is Safe

Some of my recent articles were on the subject of the treatment of discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan. A special focus of those blogs was on the 'Blasphemy' laws in the country's constitution.  

However, let us not forget that this law has not just been used to attack the Shias, Ahmedis, Hindus, and Christians of Pakistan. Not even the Muslims (representing 98% of the population according to varying reports) are immune from being convicted under 295-A,B, and C. No one is safe.

There are some people who argue that the said laws should apply to Muslims only, claiming that you can only blaspheme against a deity or a religious personality/object if you first profess faith in it. But that is an entirely different debate altogether.

Recently, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has levelled the charge of blasphemy against a Pakistan People's Party (PPP)leader. 

The thing to be noted here is that these two parties are supposed to be liberal and progressive in their outlook, not religious like, let's say, the Jamat-e-Islami. Not to mention, both MQM and PPP are the first speak to against acts of religious violence and terrorism in the country.

And the irony is that a PPP leader (Salman Taseer) was gunned down 4 years ago defending Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy. And now a member of the same party is at the receiving end of similar charges.

I believe that there is a need for a debate on these issues so that people feel protected by the constitution rather than fearing its misuse. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

'Blasphemy' Report 2014

2014 didn't bring any good news for the minorities of Pakistan, especially the Christian community.

The much hyped Aasia Bibi Blasphemy trial has been in the news for the last 5 years where a Christian in Punjab was arrested for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H). Two days ago, her appeal was dismissed by the Lahore High Court, which means her death sentence is still in effect i.e. of course, if the Supreme Court, or the President himself intervenes.

But it will be miracle if this happens, because the last time the President intervened in the Aasia Bibi case, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard.

Former Governor of Punjab, the late Salman Taseer defending Aasia Bibi

Indeed, Salman Taseer's fate(and also of Shahbaz Bhatti) is common of anyone who speaks of amendments in the Blasphemy Law. These purported amendments seek to improve the quality of evidence needed to convict a person under this legislation.

Consider the fact that the leading political players in Pakistan simply do not talk about the violence that is perpetrated under the guise of this law. Of course, we do have some lone voices.

Political stalwart Javed Hashmi did talk about making positive changes in regards to the misuse of the blasphemy. If one closely analyses his latest speech in the Parliament, you can see that he defends liberal values. He made fun of a religious/political leader of how the latter talks about Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) coming in his dreams. He then proceeded to defend female participation in political rallies which were being dubbed as 'vulgar' by some mainstream politicians. 

But once again, Javed Hashmi, while still being respected in various political and social circles, no longer enjoys mass popularity. In fact, many people now accuse him of having a tainted character.

Next up we have the Pakistan People's Party(PPP). It's new leader (Bilawal Bhutto Zardari) suggested changing the constitution of Pakistan (drafted by his own grandfather) to allow non-Muslims to run for office. Religious minorities can hold seats in the National and Provincial Assemblies, but they are barred from being the Head of State. 

Bilawal 'Bhutto' Zardaro-Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party

In his latest political address, Bilawal Bhutto recalled the deaths of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer in high esteem. You would again think that these comments offer a ray of hope, but think again.

Owing to the massive rallies and protests being held against the government by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a growing number of people have start to show outright hate for the PPP. Not to mention, Bilawal Bhutto has a clear threat to his life from an extremist Islamic outfit. His mother was also killed in a terrorist attack.

Bottom-line: The constitutional marginalization of religious minorities sadly shows no signs of changing in the near future.

Let us all pray for Aasia Bibi and her family.