The beleaguered minorities of the country received a morale boost from the top judge on May 13 as he characterised offence against any religion as blasphemy. Not that he said something out of the ordinary or something not known before — the observation, in fact, it is straight out of our statute books — but few show the guts to say such things on the dais in our peculiar environment of intolerance. Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani went a step further and affirmed that the top court will ensure protection of minorities’ rights and set guidelines to enforce them and also ask the government to establish a ‘special force’ for the security of minorities. Soothing words, indeed, for segments of our society who often report persecution at the hands of the majority faith.
The context of these observations was a suo-motu hearing of the Peshawar church bombing and the rights of the minority communities. The September 2013 suicide bombing during Sunday Mass at a church in Peshawar remains the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s history on the Christian community, leaving over 80 people dead. In the backdrop of that horrific incident, the assurance held out by the chief justice should provide some solace to the community in general. But clearly the families who lost their dear ones in the act of savagery would not settle for kind words alone. They would want their tormentors tracked down, prosecuted and punished.
Other minority communities, such as Hindus, also have their fair share of complaints. During the course of the proceedings, the bench sought a report from the Sindh police chief regarding the six recent incidents related to the desecration of Hindu temples and their holy books. If the court exercises its jurisdiction forcefully and pursues the matter doggedly, the officialdom, which has the habit of looking the other way, will perforce have to take action against the culprits who attack the minority communities, vandalise their places of worship and defile their sacred books with impunity.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2014.
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