A question of faith: ‘Repeal blasphemy law or make it flawless’

Published: June 2, 2011
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Report documents the deteriorating state of minorities in Pakistan.

Report documents the deteriorating state of minorities in Pakistan.

A Think Tank working on minority issues in Pakistan has called upon the government to repeal the blasphemy law, or at least amend it to remove all vague terminology to prevent its misuse.

The Jinnah Institute’s report, “A Question of Faith”, also calls for addition of a section in the Pakistan Penal Code making advocacy of religious hatred or incitement to discrimination or violence a punishable offence.

The institute has published 23 recommendations, including the removal of impunity for prayer leaders in mosques, police and judicial reforms and clarification of the status of Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology. It also calls for an appointment of a “Special Ombudsman” to protect the rights of women and minorities.

The research team interviewed 125 people including minority representatives, victims and non-governmental organisations’ workers all over Pakistan between December 2010 and April 2011. It documents the deterioration in the political, social and economic status of members of religious minorities in Pakistan, “particularly the rising tide of vigilante violence against them”, according to a press release issued by the institute.

The report focuses on Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis, three prominent minority groups in the country. According to the report, the conditions for Christians have deteriorated over the years. The Christians “are on the frontline of the persecution and violence against minority communities.”

Interviews with Christians of different age groups and professions revealed that many of them felt they “are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against in all aspects of life.” Moreover, most of those who can, do move away from Pakistan. Those who choose to stay back do so because of a “strong sense of commitment to the country and being ‘Pakistani’.”

Christians in rural areas have to deal with instances of their land being grabbed by local Muslim residents and in some of the more serious incidents, the Christian residents did not come back to their homes.

Eighty per cent of the Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh, and “are victims of caste and wider religious discrimination,” said the report. They do not own lands and work on daily wages, a consequence of them not having any permanent settlement. The report said, “One day, they are with one landlord, the next day with another. And this is how they spend a life of debt, with no accountability or education.”

Their castes have translated into daily life. For instance, Hindus from a lower caste might be restricted to a separate water well in a school, “from which even the Muslims will not drink”.

Higher caste Hindus have their own set of problems to contend with. They live in a state of insecurity and are frequently kidnapped for ransom. For instance, 82-year-old Lakki Chand Garji, a prominent Hindu spiritual leader, was kidnapped on December 21, 2010 and is yet to be traced and rescued.

Then there’s the matter of Hindus being suspected of having sympathy for India. Some Hindus said that “they dealt with the repercussions of the destruction of the Babri Masjid across the border in India in 1992.”

Violence against the Ahmaddiya community has also been on the rise in the past three years, according to the report. The report attributed the increase in violence to maulvis “promoting such attacks and inciting violence in their sermons and in the media.”

Sherry Rehman, President of Jinnah Institute, introduced the report on Tuesday and spoke about the need to reinstate the model of inclusive citizenship envisioned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

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

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Disco Molvi
    Jun 2, 2011 - 11:46AM

    I’m all for whatever that prevents indiscriminate killing of the minorities, be it by repealing or by appropriate amendments to this law.Recommend

  • T R Khan
    Jun 2, 2011 - 11:47AM

    ” The report attributed the increase in violence to maulvis “promoting such attacks and inciting violence in their sermons and in the media.” ”

    The maulvis have been openly declaring people wajab-ul-qatal for decades. It is the politically leadership; which to please the maulvis; acted as a catalyst to ignite and make the situation worse.Recommend

  • Loose Salwar
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:03PM

    Define the “Flawless” blasphemy law first!!Recommend

  • Atts
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:32PM

    Good Sherry! at least its a step in the right direction that someone has managed to take, though how far it will go is a question yet to be answered. wonder what the mullahs will do to protest against this oneRecommend

  • T R Khan
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:37PM

    Blasphemy laws are not Islamic. There is worldly punishment for blasphemy.Recommend

  • Omar Haroon
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:46PM

    With maulvis ever ready to make wajab-ul-qatal declarations on anyone unfortunate enough to have caught their attention, the possibility of a “flawless” blasphemy law existing is most assuredly nil. It would be better to just repeal the law and, if possible, relegate religion to the private sphere as it should have been done long ago.Recommend

  • Noble Tufail
    Jun 2, 2011 - 12:51PM

    who sowed the saudi thorns in my garden???Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 2, 2011 - 6:25PM

    Old subject — and there are enough people who will protest over their right to execute people who say things that offend their religion that the politicians won’t consider amending this law. If people had the same determination to protest the torture/killing of journalist, assassination of BB, rampant corruption etc. – one wonders if Pakistan would be a better place.Recommend

  • Sonia
    Jun 3, 2011 - 12:24AM

    Do it now or never.Recommend

  • AnisAqeel
    Jun 3, 2011 - 8:06AM

    Just repeal them. They are unjust, unislamic, inhuman, bias and the biggest source of settling accounts with weaker opponents. Most important these are un-constitutional as are inducted by a dictator who should have been tried for treason.Recommend

  • Kailash
    Jun 3, 2011 - 8:49AM

    I have been born and brought up here in Pakistan my entire life. Luckily so far never came across any discriminatory action despite belonging to a very poor family. I have been taught to love Pakistan from begining by my father. And i have always been into it fully. However, sometimes it is difficult to stomach in the news that other minorities are going through tough time in Pakistan. I just wonder sometimes that if me, after completing 16 year of education, feel so depressed by hearing these news what would happen to those who are going through all of this! Hope there would be light at the end of the tunnel.Recommend

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