Media watch: The ugly face of the blasphemy law

Published: November 16, 2010
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The local and international press condemns the death penalty given to Aasia Bibi, for committing "blasphemy".

The local and international press condemns the death penalty given to Aasia Bibi, for committing "blasphemy".

Media watch is a daily round-up of key articles featured on news websites, hand-picked by The Express Tribune web staff.

Govt not to allow misuse of blasphemy law

The government will not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy law in the country, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti told journalists after attending the meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Minorities Affairs. He said protection to the life and property of minorities was the constitutional obligation of the government. He said Ministry of Minorities Affairs had written a letter to the Punjab government regarding Aasia Bibi, sentenced to death in a blasphemy case by a District and Sessions Court in Nanakana Sahib. Bhatti said the Ministry had asked the Punjab government to provide the accused all possible chances to plead her case on merit and ensure her protection in the jail. The minister said in most of the cases, blasphemy law was being misused to settle personal scores, political vendetta and religious enmities. He said the government was taking steps to stop misuse of the law. He said Aasia Bibi would be given opportunity to plead her case (dailytimes.com.pk)

A bad law that will haunt us

It seems more likely that she angered her tormentors in a theological discussion about the relative merits of Christianity and Islam. Such debates take place all the time among adherents of different faiths. Whichever it may have been, the law has created intolerable injustice for often powerless people and quite unacceptable restrictions on freedom of speech to which the state of Pakistan is committed… How can Asia Bibi and others be saved from the gallows? The blasphemy law is a bad law enacted under pressure from extremists who threaten violence if the government does anything to lessen its impact or to ameliorate the lot of those who have fallen victim to it. A bad law will always come back to haunt us and that is why our ultimate aim must be its repeal. (guardian.co.uk)

Lower courts’ justice system exposed

The Sheikhupura district and sessions court judgment highlights to the world what anyone who has ever traversed the muddy waters of Pakistan’s law-enforcement and judicial system knows all too well: the investigative capacity of the police is virtually non-existent and the police habitually caves in to Islamist-inspired mobs in the name of ‘preserving public order’, particularly when it comes to vendettas against religious minorities. Too often, the lower-level judiciary lacks the training to adjudicate within the framework of the law and frequently brings its own political and social prejudices to bear in its approach to the law. (dawn.com)

Nothing is going to happen

“Nothing is going to happen,” insists Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab. Asia Bibi, the Christian woman accused of blasphemy, will not suffer a death sentence; he says it will be struck down by the higher courts. But Taseer adds: “Nevertheless, it is a disgraceful episode. It’s an embarrassment for Pakistan.”

The case is another grim reminder of how Pakistan’s cruel blasphemy laws not only leave minority groups vulnerable, but even encourage their persecution. “These laws are used to victimise Christians and other groups. They are a foul leftover from the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq,” says Taseer. (independent.co.uk)

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Reader Comments (19)

  • SharifL
    Nov 16, 2010 - 4:58PM

    I think another newspaper wrote something more interesting: “The only way to deal with this now is if the people unite and stand up for their just rights. We need a people’s movement asking for a reversal of not just this law but also many others, including the Hudood Ordinance. If the people do not raise their voice, they would be left in a continuing state of being granted no rights.” (Daily Times, 2nd Editorial
    People should have courage. If this government which includes liberal elements like PPP, ANP and MQM, do not expect anything from Muslim league (N). They are much more conservative.Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Nov 16, 2010 - 8:34PM

    “Nothing is going to happen,” insists Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab.
    Dear Governor
    Well said, “Nothing is going to happen”. Ask the poor woman and her family. The lawyers fee, staying in lock-up, police harassment, travelling on each date to the court, wastage of time of the accused woman and her relatives, the mental agony.
    And Mr. Governor you say nothing is going to happen? Recommend

  • Mubarik
    Nov 16, 2010 - 8:42PM

    Please don’t blame our ‘Beloved Amir-ul-momenen saheed Zia-ul-Haq’. Wo to Islami Nazam lana Chata tha muger shaheed ho gia. If Zia was still alive then I bet Pakistan would have vanished.Recommend

  • Humanity
    Nov 16, 2010 - 9:20PM

    The nation is on the path towards oblivion unless they rapidly change course. God always waylays the oppressors and tyrants. The superior Muslims should not fool themselves by imagining that are outside the reach of Allah’s lathi .. God watches out for His creation and Aasia Bibi is His creation too!Recommend

  • akhtar
    Nov 16, 2010 - 10:09PM

    A court verdict came after due process i e ground realities, evidences and right of defense for accused. If not so than she has a right to approach the higher court for justice otherwise shouting is baseless. Blasphemy law is not an ugly but a beautiful one.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 16, 2010 - 10:12PM

    Even if challenged in court this would fail due to the Islamic character of the Constitution. Blasphemy laws are here to stay. In 63 years non-Muslim population has decreased from 25% to 3% now. So, the trend suggests that they would be wiped out in about 20 to 30 years.. Recommend

  • Humanity
    Nov 16, 2010 - 11:33PM

    @akhtar “Blasphemy law is not an ugly but a beautiful one.”

    So in your view, intolerance and bigotry must also be spiritual experiences!

    For your information, there is no basis in Islam for the blasphemy law. It is against the Quran and sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW). May Allah have mercy on you and show you the path of kindness and forgiveness.Recommend

  • Amaar
    Nov 17, 2010 - 4:03AM

    @Anoop

    There is nothing Islamic about Pakistani constitution!Recommend

  • basharat
    Nov 17, 2010 - 6:23AM

    Dozens of innocent people , accused of blasphemy , had been murdered by frenzied mobs , while they were in lock ups or in jails or in the vicinity of trial courts , none of the perpetrators of these murders have been charged to face justice . The trial courts remain under pressure . On the dates of hearing of these cases , it has become normal practice , the courts are surrounded by violent mobs , chanting slogans and demanding conviction of the accused persons . A senior member of
    Lahore High Court Bench, who acquitted the christian accused persons , was murdered and car of the defense lawyer was burned . In these circumstances , the judges , remain under duress and pressure . A 60 year old lady , has been acquitted after 14 years , the whole period she remained in prison . The High Court Judge remarked that there was no evidence to support the accusation .Recommend

  • Nacheez Khadim
    Nov 17, 2010 - 11:31AM

    The creator and perparator of this law perished miserably no sign of his remains were found except his dentures.
    All those who support or think Blasphemy law is right should look into the ultimate fate of General Zia.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 17, 2010 - 3:08PM

    @Amaar,

    Doesn’t matter if it is actually Islamic or not the courts wont see it that way. That is why it is so important for a country to have its priorities right.Recommend

  • aftab kenneth wilson
    Nov 17, 2010 - 5:12PM

    condemn law and have mercy on those who disrespected prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)….GREATRecommend

  • Talha
    Nov 17, 2010 - 6:44PM

    @ Anoop

    Spreading your false information as usual.

    A high percent of Pakistans minorities were present in East-Pakistan (now Bangladesh). West Pakistan had a significantly lower percent when compared to our eastern wing.

    Lets us not look at the percent but rather the population number to verify if a change has occured in West Pakistan alone. Percent increase in Muslim population is profound becuase of bigger families and multiple marriages in certain regions of our country. Even in India, the Muslim population grew profoundly.

    According to the 1951 census (that is the year when the migration of people between India and Pakistan had stopped) West Pakistan had 0.5 mil Hindus, today the number stands at higher than 4 mil. Similarly the Christian, Ahmadi and other minoroty numbers have increase but lack of proper measurements in our country make it difficult to assess correct population numbers.

    Keep you indian propaganda out of here, some people might fall for it but ones who have knowledge will not. Recommend

  • Talha
    Nov 17, 2010 - 6:46PM

    As for ther blasphemy law, an utter farce made up to persecute minorities with state sanction.

    Zia was the opposite of Jinnah, he undid our nation in his dark and miserable tenure.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 17, 2010 - 8:57PM

    @Talha,

    Even though Bangladesh made more Hindus than Pakistan, the difference wasn’t that huge. The % of Hindus and Muslims plummeted from around 20% to 1.6% in Pakistan. Bangladesh had about 30% of population as Hindus. That is the reason Pakistani army committed a genocide on the Hindus there thinking Hindus have influenced the local Muslims there.

    And, I am not working for my Government to claim I am spreading Indian propaganda.

    Go check the figures for yourself.

    Contrast this with the % of Muslims in India. It has only grown.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Nov 19, 2010 - 5:53PM

    @Talha: Dude… You living in some other world or what? Referring to West / East Pakistan? Get your facts correct bro – It’s Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    BTW – I personally feel that Bangladesh is slowly but surely progressing.

    As far as blasphemy laws are concerned, my opinion about them is that they are means of safe guarding religion and if a country aims to be secular, progressive and democratic then there is no place for such primitive laws.Recommend

  • ajay mittal
    Nov 22, 2010 - 3:35AM

    Joke of the century-

    Minorities Minister in Pakistan says “The government will not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy law in the country, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti told journalists after attending the meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Minorities Affairs. He said protection to the life and property of minorities was the constitutional obligation of the government.”

    What was he doing all this time; why has he woken up now? Is he saying all this to look good because of all in the international attention?

    I really wan’t to understand the role and responsibility of a Minister of Minorities in Pakistan? Can someone please educate me? To me it seems that they don’t do anything at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told me that he didn’t know what was expected of his role.Recommend

  • Fahad Jatoi
    Nov 22, 2010 - 2:47PM

    Infidels have now gotten the back of Pakistani media, go on forever, the law will stay in place inshaAllah.Recommend

  • Adeel
    Dec 14, 2010 - 12:24AM

    The fact of the matter is there is a huge difference between christians and muslims and some kind of debate will always be there between Muslims and Chrisitans regarding their faith. For Christians Jesus Christ is the only way to God and no one is there to save humans after him. They do no believe Prophet Muhammad as Prophet of God. This is Christianity. This is their stance. If this is blashpehmy then every chrisitan who defends his religion comes under “blashpemy law” and should be killed. Muslims need to understand and accept this reality. If any muslim attack christianity and try to prove that it is wrong then in reply he has to listen some thing which he shouldn’t regard as “Blashpemy”. Recommend

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