Hate crime legislation

Published: August 16, 2012
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The writer is a suspended member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Media Adviser to the PPP Co-Chairman

The writer is a suspended member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Media Adviser to the PPP Co-Chairman

Pakistan has become a brutal place to live, especially if you are a member of a religious minority. Most observers agree that the country is being swept by a rising tide of hate encouraged by unbridled hate speech. Hate speech is defined as any spoken or physical action that negatively targets a person or group of people based on their ethnicity, gender or religion.

Several countries have dealt with hate by introducing laws that enhance penalties for crimes if they are motivated by racial, gender or religious hatred. Pakistan, too, needs to implement laws that discourage the whipping up of hateful religious sentiments. While researching a private members bill to be introduced in the National Assembly of Pakistan on hate crimes and hate speech, I noticed that the issue of preventing incitement had been addressed by several articles of the Pakistan Penal Code, which dates back to 1860. The adhoc introduction of ostensibly religion-based ordinances by dictators has significantly altered Pakistan’s legal edifice, adding parallel  ‘Islamic’ provisions to the pre-partition criminal justice system. In some cases, the new superstructure has weakened the foundations of a more tolerant and pluralist society that could be ensured under the original scheme of things.

The Pakistan Penal Code is fairly rigorous on the subject of hate crimes of all kind. However, we have two serious and pressing issues. Firstly, contradictory laws like the blasphemy laws challenge the ability to prosecute under the Pakistan Penal Code and secondly, over the decades, we have seen less and less implementation of the Penal Code as in the protection of rights of our minority citizens.

Article 153-A of the Penal Code prescribes punishments for promoting “enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. If implemented effectively, it could be the basis for prosecuting extremists who encourage religious hatred, particularly those whose  ‘malicious intent’ is clear.

Part XV of the Penal Code focuses on ‘Offences Relating to Religion’. Article 295 criminalises the destruction, damaging or defiling any place of worship “or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction damage or defilement as an insult to their religion”. Article 298 provides for punishing uttering of words or making of gestures  “with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person”.

Instead of applying these and related articles on all those who fuel strife between various religious groups, General Ziaul Haq amended laws in a way that religious minorities, especially Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis could be systematically discriminated against. Insulting these religions is easy while practising them has been rendered difficult. There is increasing violence against Shia Muslims as well, notwithstanding the fact that several of Pakistan’s founding fathers, including the Quaid-e-Azam, were Shia Muslims themselves.

The bill I intended to submit envisaged much longer jail terms and far stiffer monetary fines for promoting or practising religious hatred. But in terms of spirit and language, even the present Penal Code, if fully implemented, could be a good starting point for punishing those who incite violence against religious minorities. Today’s Pakistan, which has little resemblance to the country envisioned by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, consistently fails to punish those who define religiosity as hatred of other religions instead of being a manifestation of personal piety. The law should ensure that sermons should teach people about their faith and its practice rather than railing against the beliefs of others.

Naysayers may say this is no longer practical or possible to implement. However, pushing provincial and federal governments on implementation of laws against hate has become critical to ensure the country’s survival and progress. The role in preventing or protecting minorities is the duty of all law officers, judiciary and government officials which has completely fallen by the wayside. There are new incidents every day and people either don’t care enough or have been intimidated into silence by the powerful extreme right from speaking up for the Christian, Ahmadi, Hindu and Sikh communities, as well as Shia Muslims.

Acting upon our existing laws is essential. If we cannot ensure consensus or muster the will to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws then we have to, at the very minimum, implement the other laws we have. Haters need to feel the heat or else the degradation of our society will continue.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • Ejaaz
    Aug 16, 2012 - 10:43PM

    Too little too late. The seed of hate was planted a long time ago. Well before Zia who merely provided it a nurturing environment. The plant is starting to bear fruit, and now we will have to live with the consequences. These complaints at the edges are meaningless. We said we could not live with others. We keep redefining who those others are. Well now it is our turn to be other and there really is no one to come to our defence. Pakistan Paindabad.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 16, 2012 - 10:46PM

    Is hating ones husband a hate crime?

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  • Abbas
    Aug 16, 2012 - 10:49PM

    Well done, Ms Ispahani. I hope you succeed.

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  • Aug 16, 2012 - 10:53PM

    ‘Haters need to feel the heat..’ agree. legislation is effective only if the judiciary and law enforcement is effective

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  • Shahid Khan
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:00PM

    The legislation should include punishment for hate crimes against Atheists in pakistan also.

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  • Obaid
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:09PM

    The question is what did YOU do when you were MNA, a member of the legislative assembly of Pakista, now when you have been banished why suggesting what should be done? BTW your comments are agreeable.

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  • elementary
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:14PM

    @Author *The bill I intended to submit envisaged much longer jail terms and far stiffer monetary fines for promoting or practising religious hatred”.
    so whart prevented you in your noble endeavours.

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  • Jamshed
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:43PM

    Ms. Isphani. I dont know if you realise this, but you are part of the problem. Your government is putting illiterate people in positions of authority and they are ruining every institution in the country. I’m sure you will deny that like your boss who says “you think there is a problem with railways, I dont!”, “you think there is a problem with PIA, I dont”, ” you think there is a problem with Pak Steel, I dont”. Now, becasue of the economic condition of the country, where there is no electricity and industry is shutting down, more people are being added to the teeming group of unemployed. Now these unemployed people who have NOTHING to fall back except the joke that you call BISP, then they will resort to violence. Ofcourse, it is the minorities first as the semi-literate feel that by pushing the minorities, somehow God will reward them with riches in the next world – riches they crave in this world. I know you will never understand all this, but give it a try. Go out without your security team and see how people shower you with love and affection. A true test of your and PPPs popularity.Recommend

  • AQ
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:00AM

    Why these politicians come up with brilliant ideas after they are suspended or out of power? From the point of view of common people, it’s just a lip service. Nothing will happen, your party still in the Govt, I would say Actions Speak Louder Than Words. If you were serious in resolving people’s concerns, you had plenty of chances.

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  • King Kong
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:19AM

    “Pakistan has become a brutal place to live”.
    Very sad to hear such words coming from the wife of a Pakistani ambassador. I wonder how Hussain Haqqani feels about Pakistan and how he portrays Pakistan as to other people. Let’s hope and pray that he does not share the same opinion as his wife.
    People like her who benefit mercilessly from Pakistan should be the last to say anything negative about Pakistan. Recommend

  • Pro Bono Publico
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:11AM

    @King Kong:
    “Pakistan has become a brutal place to live”.
    Of she knows no hate in USA, where in last 11 days, at least 8 masjids, Islamic schools, Muslim homes homes were destroyed or damaged. One masjid was burnt to the ground!

    Haqqani’s loyalty test was proved by the Memo he wrote seeking US control on Pakistan.

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  • Kanwal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:28AM

    In case anybody does not know, HussainHaqqani has been a member of the Islami Jamiat e Talba, the first ever student party to introduce weapons on campuses….

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  • Parvez
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:57AM

    After reading this, which makes eminent sense, it’s a little hard to reconcile the fact that the author is a senior member of this sitting government now into its 5th. year.
    Madam over the last five years, the head of government has repeatedly reminded us that he was democratically elected by 180 million Pakistanis, so the responsibility for failing rests squarely on his shoulders.

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  • kaalchakra
    Aug 17, 2012 - 2:30AM

    Logic does not appear to be a strong suite of Ms Ispahani. The author does not realize that Muslims already have the biggest hate crime legislation – it’s called Islam. Allah has forbidden Muslims to insult other religions.

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  • Noor Nabi
    Aug 17, 2012 - 2:50AM

    In a word Pakistan’s problem is “Qadrification” of society. No judge or court can sentence this horrible man to a punishment that fits his crime. The lawyers are showering him with petals. Pakistan’s Hindu population is in “exodus mode”.

    The country needs more than a bill that you had envisaged presenting. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 is the root cause of all problems.

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  • Jamshed
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:09AM

    @King Kong:
    Like someone else pointed out. If her husband had still been the ambassador and she had been milking money from the coffers (as MNA), she would still be singing praises for the government and the great strides the country has made since PPP came to power. Her incumbent party colleagues who still have their hands in the till are doing just that. Tell them they are wrong and it becomes a consipracy agaisnt democracy, conspiracy against PPP, conspiracy against the president (i wonder if they know why he was called Mr. 10%), conspiracy against BBs grave, conspiracy against Bilawal (restart from conspiracy against democracy). Her husband committed treason and she is talking about rights of minorities. Truly, the minorities have it really bad in Pakistan, but will Ms. Ispahani ask her husband to face the court without the government interfering in the process? I dont think so! A case of the pot calling the kettle black Ms. Ispahani?

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  • Observer
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:18AM

    @Mirza:
    Are you suggesting that Pakistanis hate hussain haqqani and that this a crime to do so?

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  • Observer
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:20AM

    @Kanwal:
    This is true folks!
    Well reminded.

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  • Arjun
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:39AM

    @Pro Bono Publico:
    Pro Bono eradico will be your fate if you keep deluding yourself to such lies. There is no comparision to secular USA and religious Pakistan. Just end it there. Coming to your arroganco delusionio…after shias it will be whose fate….you never know until it hits your family….The circus of islamic Pakistan is progressing well as expected….eliminate each other with pure hatred…….

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  • Ejaaz
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:55AM

    @Noor Nabi: ” The Objectives Resolution of 1949 is the root cause of all problems.”

    People did not just wake up one day and suddenly said lets implement “The Objectives Resolution”. It did not happen overnight. The overwhelming majority at the time wanted it. Only a handful raised objection to it, and of those most were non-muslims. Why do you think we were so receptive to that Resolution then and even now? That is the root cause of all problems and not the mere symptom of it as expressed by the objectives resolution.

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  • sabi
    Aug 17, 2012 - 5:41AM

    God did not forgive zia by blowing him out in fire for his crimes against humanity,and signaled the nation to mend it’s ways,The nation didn’t by embrassing the tyrant legacy he left behind in the form of constitutional reforms clearly negating the teachings of Quran.Who has succeded going against God’s will?Nothing.The nation must mend it’s ways for humanity.
    Excellent article kudos.

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  • Rafi
    Aug 17, 2012 - 5:57AM

    @Jamshed:
    Eloquently stated Jamshed!

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  • asim
    Aug 17, 2012 - 6:31AM

    “Pakistan has become a brutal place to live”….Thats why now you have chosen US to live

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  • Master
    Aug 17, 2012 - 6:33AM

    @Jamshed:
    Agreed ..she has no courage to live in pakistan even

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Aug 17, 2012 - 6:43AM

    Legislation doesn’t matter madam since the Courts are busy discharging honorably notorious criminals like Malik Ishaq. But effort is nonetheless appreciated.

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  • Raw is War
    Aug 17, 2012 - 7:56AM

    @ kaalchakra

    are you even educated? do you even understand what is written in the article by Ms.Ispahani? This lady is an asset for Pakistan, unlike you. It is such a eye-opener and you rant about stupid things.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 17, 2012 - 7:58AM

    The argument that HH was a member of Islami JT, while a student is bogus. We all are born and bred like that. I was the same way and once I saw the real faces of rightwing leaders I came out of that and never went back to these parties. It is a process of evolution as we are all nurtured in a rightwing religious environment. The fact is our forefathers were not Muslims but once they became Muslims their past cannot be used against them.

    In Pakistan not a single fanatic killer has been punished as yet. In fact they are all released for one pretext or the other. The CJ sounds more like the worst reincarnation of Gen Zia and not the neutral judge. Nobody can do anything under these circumstances. Even raising voice can be a cause to be a casualty at the hands of these ruthless terrorists.

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  • karma
    Aug 17, 2012 - 9:23AM

    Madam: To legislate to relegate a portion of the population to second class citizenry, in itself is a hate crime. For these Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Shias, Ahmedis Pakistan has been homeland for hundreds of generation. Now, because of a twist of history, they are told they are second rate citizens of their homeland, and will have ‘protection’?? Protection from whom?

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  • Fayyaz Mughal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 10:45AM

    @Jamshed. I don’t know one whom pay role you are working but i am sure your strings have been pulled from somewhere else. Farah Naz Ispahani is the most fair politician. Prove that she stole a single penny from public money or minted money through illicit means or she is corrupt, you will not find my voice different than you. Regarding Hussain Haqqani, who are you to decide he is traitor or not loyal to this land??? Have you any prove??? Your courts and establishment despite their utmost efforts failed to provide any solid evidence against him. Yes he is earning money but through is intellectuality, knowledge and skill. He is professor in one of the best University in Boston. He is not earning money through running propaganda and hate monger campaigns like you. And by the way can you prove your loyalty?????Your mentors are most crooked on this land….Regards

    Fayyaz Mughal

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  • Aug 17, 2012 - 10:51AM

    But this one was made for minorities why you talk about religion If you are National of State of Pakistan you must not get afraid of these extremist. So do we mean it that it was Hijacked by extremist on 11th Sep 1947 ,,,,,………… come back to Pakistan and face it what ever it is even life but don’t call your self minority you have your own words power to prove your self not guilty in the society

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  • Humayun R Ali
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:17PM

    The question is what did you do when you were MNA, a member of the legislative assembly of Pakistan. Probably this is your new job i..e find solutions on papers and get them published.

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  • Tony Singh
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:40PM

    @King Kong:
    Very sad to hear such words coming from the wife of a Pakistani ambassador. I wonder how Hussain Haqqani feels about Pakistan and how he portrays Pakistan as to other people. Let’s hope and pray that he does not share the same opinion as his wife.
    People like her who benefit mercilessly from Pakistan should be the last to say anything negative about Pakistan
    .”
    Tell that to the near and dear ones of bus passengers who were killed for being Shias.

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  • Fayyaz Mughal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 2:31PM

    @Jamshed Every one in Pakistan is self proclaimed loyalist with this land. Everyone in this country sees other as betrayer or traitor. But I just believe that when some one point’s fingers towards other, it simply means that he is trying to hide his own bad deeds. At the same time I also believe by pointing out fingers towards other, you can not hide the dirt on your face. The ugly side of this society is that we just start character assassination and mudslinging without any evidence. To a morally corrupt person, every one is morally corrupt. What we see is always what we do, because we want everyone to look alike. Recommend

  • Jeffmahagaonvi
    Aug 17, 2012 - 2:33PM

    ” Hater need to feel the heat or else the degradation of our society
    will continue”. And after a time, country independence will become
    in jeopardy.
    Live with love-Let democracy work

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  • Fayyaz Mughal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 2:54PM

    @King Kong. The problem with Pakistan is sycophancy, ignorance and denial. I think you are quite naive to what is happening with minorities in Pakistan. Farah Naz Ispahani is the only parliamentarian that raised voice for the women and oppressed minorities. I don’t know why you have started discussing politics here, while the piece is alluding towards some other direction. Perhaps you are paid employees of some political party, paid for mudslinging, hater mongering, characters assassination and propaganda. Being a clout to some group or party does not mean that you start changing or distorting the fact and turn the discussion towards some other direction. Stay on topic and speak on plight of minorities in Pakistan. Can you deny the facts Farah Naz Ispahani unveiled in her piece??? Is it wrong that we are brutally treating minorities?? How you would explain the genocide of innocent Shias??? Come on topic and answer these questions???

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  • Fayyaz Mughal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:19PM

    Mr. Jamshed if writer is part of problem than please you come up with solution.I would like to quote a story here perhaps you would better understand, Once a man painted a beautiful scenery and put it on a public place with a caption ” Please underline the faults in this painting” The next day when he got up he saw the entire painting was underlined. He was much disappointed. A wise man asked him to put this place again on the same place but with a different caption ” Please correct where you find a fault” The next day he was surprised to see no line and no change in the painting. The problem with Pakistan is there here every one underlining the fault but no one is trying to correct it and you are one among them. Your grudge might be of the reason that you did not get a chance to steal or mint money because it has become a trend in Pakistan that he who did not get a chance, taken the flag of honesty and truth.
    Regards..
    Fayyaz Mughal

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  • Saqlain Abbas
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:20PM

    Excellent piece. But even if Federal Govt takes drastic steps on the lines you mentions how you will tackle Punjab Government. PPP did and doing well in this regard but Punjab Govt is antagonizing all such measures by supporting religious monsters.
    Punjab Government is responsible for turning a blind eye to this growth of seminaries. In recent past many terrorist attacks have been traced back to seminaries and religious organizations e.g. May 2010 attack on Ahmadis, whose activities are not checked by Punjab Government. This immense magnitude of seminary students poses a severe threat to State. Recent rallies in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi by banned terrorist groups had most of the audience from seminaries. Punjabi Talibans = Sepa sahaba + Lashkar ghangvi + Jaish e Muhammad, all of them receive stipend from Punjab government. In last three decades since they started terrorism business in Pakistan, not even one of the terrorists was hanged not only that but police men who apprehended these terrorists were systematically killed. Who orders police to look other way when this terrorist move around in Punjab in convoys of double cabins loaded with AK47s? Good news for humanity, these terrorists are afraid of people of Pakistan.

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  • Aug 17, 2012 - 3:42PM

    @Mirza:
    “Is hating ones husband a hate crime?”
    .
    Sorry to hear Mrs Mirza (comment no:2 from the top), that you hate your husband too, crime or not. Happens even in best of the families.

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  • atif
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:57PM

    i,m so depressed to know such stories. zia has just raped our country our society in the name of religion. because of such things i prefer to be non beliver than a muslim. for me now islam is justto kill others to kill shias to kill ahmedis. i dnt know what will happen next but a shameful act.

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  • Faraz K
    Aug 17, 2012 - 6:49PM

    Making new laws does not make any sense until our law and order agencies are made corruption-free and are depoliticized. Making laws is the easy part. Implementing these laws is what we are lacking at. We need to focus on giving everyone equal rights and equal opportunities.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 17, 2012 - 7:08PM

    @Observer:
    @Abid P Khan:
    I do not get personal in my posts. The comment that you refer are from some rightwing imposter. I do not hate anybody even those who want to copy me or hate me. How people find time to hate when life is too short to love!
    Thanks for your comments, and regards and a very happy Eid!
    Mirza

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  • Azra Shahnaz
    Aug 17, 2012 - 8:58PM

    it’s not legislation issue!Recommend

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