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.