Blasphemy backtrack

Published: January 1, 2011

Activists of chant slogans against Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death, during a protest in Karachi on December 3, 2010. PHOTO: IRFAN ALI

It takes only a miniscule drop of rain to send the government scuttling for cover. The threat by religious parties to protest any change in blasphemy laws has lead to an immediate process of backtracking. This has not been enough, however, to prevent the nationwide strike which went ahead on December 31. The pressure then is on.

The new minister for religious affairs, Khurshid Shah, told the National Assembly this past week that the PPP had no plans to repeal the law or make changes in it. Other members of the government have expressed similar sentiments. These contrast quite markedly with the bold assertions made previously about changing laws that have been misused to put hundreds behind bars. Most of them are innocent people who have been victimised by rivals attempting to settle some score. The blasphemy clause has become a highly convenient way to deal with those who become caught up in a row of any kind. The government should be emphasising this point, rather than cowering each time extremists come out on the streets to demonstrate their power. The degree of menace they present is overrated. After all, nothing of note had happened when major changes were made in the Hudood Ordinance during the Mushurraf era. It seems quite obvious that religious groups have more bark than bite.

In the past, the PPP had spoken out strongly against the blasphemy laws and the manner in which they were put to use. It is sad to see the party now moving backwards along the track without so much as an explanation. It is important that the blasphemy law be relegated to history. The courage to do so needs to be found. Even though they do not speak out, the ‘silent majority’ as it were, many people will applaud this. More and more citizens are shocked by the manner in which religion has come to be abused in our country. They seek from their leaders a willingness to undo the damage inflicted during the Zia years and ensure that the true values of Islam — peace, tolerance and mercy — once more become the norm in society, rather than engaging in political point-scoring. It is the rights of the people that need to be given priority.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • SharifL
    Jan 2, 2011 - 11:57AM

    The problem is that you give them an inch and they take a yard. They have an extra advantage. They are ready to kill innocent people. Is that what Islam has come down to? Intolerance and hate?Recommend

  • Bashir A. Malik
    Jan 2, 2011 - 4:54PM

    PPP govt lives by slogans not actions. The matter should have been deliberated in the Parliament comprising 99% of Muslims. May Allah guide us all on the right path including those who had opposed tooth and nail creation of Pakistan. I still carry scars of beatings I recd during Pak Movement. Bashir A. Malik Recommend

  • STUDENT
    Jan 2, 2011 - 8:38PM

    Basically religion is not just used and abused in our country only. the ‘extremists’ that we all so fondly refer to somehow are so indoctrinated so skilfully that they actually believe in a certain cause for which they can take to streets. comparatively the government does not have a foothold or the brain not to mention the will to take a strong stance against the ‘extremists’… so obviously when you lack something that you could firmly believe in you keep losing the ‘ideological wars’, in addition to this, it was not just “Zia’s years” that had inflicted the damage on Pakistan in terms of rise of fundamentalism but it was also so-called democratic leaders who had resulted in bigger damages which actually reduced the size of the country on the world map…Recommend

  • Raja Arsalan Khan
    Jan 2, 2011 - 11:05PM

    Blasphemy law has become a symbol of clergy and other “related substance” who want to see Pakistan as a conservative state following “different models”. They won’t let anyone doing away with “the gains of Islamisation”. They would stock to their task. Democracy or military rule, the difference will only be felt when there is someone going open against the clerics. Will anyone do it is another question.
    Blasphemy law reflects our resistance to all thoughts and views that are not in line with the sacred interests coupled with auxiliary products, indoctrination and notions. Therefore, in the given circumstances any success on this front will be just a like victory a victory at Panipat or Leningrad. All the state components would support the all sorts of mullahs with diverse origins. State won’t let you to change the paradigm. It is matter of its survival.Recommend

  • Sleepless in Karachi
    Jan 4, 2011 - 7:58PM

    The Governor’s death must not be in vain. All powers must do what it takes to repeal this menacing law once and for all. Now is the time.Recommend

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