The Lahore High Court on Monday suspended a lower court’s directions to the police to register a blasphemy case against columnist Ajmal Niazi for portraying Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as ‘secular’ in his columns and book.
The court also issued the respondents a notice.
An additional district and sessions judge, on September 5, directed the Islampura Station House Officer to record petitioner Mazhar Khan Ashraf’s statement, accusing Niazi of blasphemy.
Ashraf had filed the petition through Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, who is involved in dozens of petitions seeking the registration of FIRS under blasphemy charges.
Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, while challenging the additional sessions judge’s orders on Monday, stated that Ajmal Niazi was a renowned journalist who had been awarded a Sitara-i-Imtiaz. He said his columns and speeches showed that he was, in fact, a true ashiq-i-Rasool (loved the prophet).
Barrister Zafar argued that the column, Ashraf had cited, did not contain derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), but rather exalted his virtues. “The additional session judge had passed the impugned order without applying a judicial mind,” he said.
Barrister Zafar submitted that Ajmal Niazi had published his April 4 column ‘Najam Sethi aur Khatoon Sahafi Aamnay Saamnay’ in an Urdu daily. The column was about how Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) respect for women was unmatched in history.
“However certain lawyers misconstrued the column’s theme and moved a petition under Section 22A and 22B of the Pakistan Code of Criminal Procedure (powers and duties of justices of peace),” he said, “Accusing Niazi of passing derogatory remarks against Allah and Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).”
He said that the judge had been pressured to state that a cognizable offence had been committed and directed the station house officer to register an FIR.
Barrister Zafar said that the additional sessions judge had given a non-speaking order that had violated all norms of justice.
“Freedom of thought and expression cannot be constrained on such frivolous complaints,” he argued, “Had the judge read the column carefully he would have realised that Niazi had not committed an offence at all.”
On the contrary, the column had great intellectual and Islamic value, said Barrister Zafar.
After hearing the arguments, the judge suspended the additional session judge’s directions and issued notices to all the respondents.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2013.