Accused of blasphemy

Published: February 7, 2013

Minority groups, including the Ahmadis, are especially vulnerable — but it is worth keeping in mind that most of those imprisoned are Muslim. DESIGN: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

The number of persons victimised under the blasphemy law continues to grow. Recently, four employees of a printing press in the Islampura area of Lahore were accused and arrested on blasphemy charges, while loading books and CDs onto a truck. The complainant, a resident of the same area, alleged the material was blasphemous and distorted portions of the Holy Quran. It can hardly be a coincidence that the men were Ahmadi. Their lawyer has stated that the men were also arrested illegally, before an FIR was filed, and on the basis of a call to the police ‘15’ emergency line.

A sessions judge is to hear arguments on their arrest and the legality of this. The question of the charges brought against them will also be raised, with the lawyer for the complainant alleging the men planned to distribute ‘blasphemous’ literature across city markets. Police are also searching for the owner of the concerned press.

We know from past experience just how often the blasphemy law is abused. Police often act way too hastily, as seems to have happened here. Just the accusation of blasphemy triggers a reaction so frenzied that even those in charge of maintaining law and order in society fall into the trap. Misuse of the law has become increasingly widespread, resulting in suffering for the hundreds in jail on blasphemy charges. Minority groups, including the Ahmadis, are especially vulnerable — but it is worth keeping in mind that most of those imprisoned are Muslim. The insane are not spared. What this latest case illustrates is the need for investigation before people are slammed behind jail bars and also for the following of proper procedure. The failure in this respect amounts to a grave miscarriage of justice. This has been repeated time and again and there will be no end to the victimisation until the blasphemy law is amended to guard against its abuse for the sake of vendetta or to settle petty disputes.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2013.

Reader Comments (7)

  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Feb 7, 2013 - 5:36AM

    Pakistan has gradually become a repressive and narrow minded society and the trend is continuing to this direction. These laws are the Zia era relic and continue to pull down the progressive elements of the society. We have not learnt lessons from other nations and we continue to ignore the reaosns of fast progress of some countries around our region with similar backgrounds, culture and history to ours. The Islamisation of Zia has in fact become a cancer of our society producing suicidal Taliban and Anti-Shia and Ahmadi outfits promoting murders and killings in the name of God. The whole society has become hostage to this and there seems to be no way out.

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  • Feb 7, 2013 - 6:17AM

    The best this is for all Pakistanis to be charged with blasphemy and then work back from that? For example as soon as a Pakistan wakes up he/she (or it if its Begum Nawazish Ali) points at the first person who is seen and shouts BLASPHEMY! Then that person needs to pass it on BLASPHEMY! Naturally they will then all need to go and do an FIR at the local Police Station once done – they will need to shout BLASPHEMY at the police and carry on… once we get a BLASPHEMY critical mass in Pakistan – say 99% (the Maulanas need to remain neutral on this as they would never be blasphemers) then we can have serious fun – fundamentalist FUN!

    Ok who first!

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 7, 2013 - 8:56AM

    Several month ago I read in “The Dawn” that a medical salesman went to a medical doctor’s office. He was promoting his company’s products to the doctor. The doctor was not interested. However, before leaving the Doctor’s office the salesman gave him his business card and told to doctor to call him if he needs his company’s products at any other time. The Doctor, took the business card but having no interest in the products the salesman was promoting, threw the business card in the dustbin. The medical salesman noticed it and filed blasphemy charges on the doctor as his name on the business card was that of some holy personality. Not sure that the court concurred with the salesman but the fact is that anyone can file an FIR for any reason. This is the level of insanity prevailing in the country.

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  • Mirza
    Feb 7, 2013 - 8:58AM

    @Imran Ahsan Mirza:
    Sir, I am ashamed to say that you are right. I am sorry that my Pakistan has changed to this extent!

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  • 2Cents
    Feb 7, 2013 - 3:53PM

    @Mohammed Abbasi:
    Blasphemy! See you soon the FIR station.
    Sir, You cracked me up. The solution may sound funny but has legs.
    ..Peace

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  • DarKnight
    Feb 7, 2013 - 3:59PM

    What more you can expect in a country which was formed on the basis of a religion……….

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  • David Greig
    Feb 9, 2013 - 6:48PM

    With many Pakistani friends both in the United Kingdom and Pakistan, I am saddened every time I read of the use of blasphemy “laws” in Pakistan.
    My acquaintance Mohammed Hanif, the novelist and journalist, wrote a fine article about the situation in The Guardian newspaper a few months ago.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/05/pakistans-blasphemy-laws-colossal-absurdity
    One day Pakistan will be at peace. I hope that it will be in my lifetime.

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