An instrument of revenge

Published: November 19, 2010
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amina.jilani@tribune.com.pk

amina.jilani@tribune.com.pk

When Founder-Maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah told the future legislators of his country-to-be that “religion is not the business of the state” he knew what he was saying. He spelt out some of the reasons why it should not be, stressing the point that bigotry and intolerance should have no place in a new country about to take its place in the democratic and civilised world.

His warning went unheeded. It took only six months after his death for those same legislators to come up with the objectionable Objectives Resolution which firmly set Pakistan on its path towards complete intolerance of anything outside the state-defined religion, opening up the scope for the legislating of laws inherently at odds with accepted international fundamental human rights.

The first ominous signs came with the 1953 state-cum-mullah inspired Punjab riots involving the Ahmadis. In 1956, the authors of the first of the three constitutions with which we have been unblessed decreed that the Republic of Pakistan should be an Islamic republic. We move to 1973 and the insertion of the Objectives Resolution as the preamble to the constitution, and on to the second amendment of 1974 when an entire community which had been part of the majority since the country’s birth was declared a minority.

Now, when legislation is undertaken in the name of religion and the clerical lot is allowed to play a disproportionate role in the business of the state, it is virtually impossible to undo what has been decreed. Take the laws of 1977 when the then prime minister acted in a vain attempt to save his kursi and uncharacteristically banned alcohol (thus depriving the exchequer of a fair amount of money and enriching bootleggers), and gambling (which continues under the counter) — but the laws ridiculously remain with us.

All was opened up for Ziaul Haq to impose his wicked ways. In 1979 he came up with the Hudood Ordinances under which God alone knows how many innocents have suffered as they are open to gross abuse when it comes to women. Then he made his first move on the blasphemy law, Section 295, an innocuous law dating back to 1927, under which anyone injuring or defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class would be punished by imprisonment of up to two years or by a fine. He added 295-B which awarded imprisonment for life to anyone defiling the Holy Quran. The master stroke came in 1986, Section 295-C passed by the Zia-Junejo government which decreed that anyone using derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) “shall be punished by death” or imprisoned for life or fined.

This law is tailor-made for those wishing to take revenge, or to grab property, or to rid themselves of a meddlesome rival, or even to gain employment. Murders have taken place, using 295-C, even the murder of a judge who dared to declare an accused innocent, several accused have been shot down in court premises, and countless citizens conveniently languish in the country’s jails accused of the ultimate blasphemy. And to top it all, not one of the many who have made known and obvious false accusations has been punished.

And now, in 2010, with the party of the people in place, an innocent woman, falsely charged, has been sentenced to death by a judge of our independent judiciary, under Zia’s iniquitous and depraved bit of legislation. No government has had the guts to at least try to do something about this horrid law. What is wrong with the PPP (both B and Z versions) that it is unable to move against something imposed by the man who hanged the founder of the party? If democracy is its best revenge, then let us have some revenge for the citizens of this country against the dangers posed to them by Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • parvez
    Nov 19, 2010 - 11:41PM

    The ball is in Mr.Zardari’s court. It’s his move now.
    If he does what he should do, there will be a new found respect for him and the party.Recommend

  • CCC
    Nov 19, 2010 - 11:41PM

    Great conclusion. Either you have democracy or you don’t. You can’t claim to be democratic without freedom of speech. The nefarious intentions of previous military regimes needs to go. This is a great opportunity for the present administration to rectify it. If PPP fixes this law, it would go a long way in Pakistan’s progress toward a civilized & democratic state.

    While religion is not the business of the state, the military also has no business in the state. These two ‘major’ wrongs have setback Pakistan for decades. Does not matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, it’s time to turn back and head in the right direction.

    On the law itself, I do not think the intention is to protect the image of Islam or something. It is mainly a tool to get anything out of minorities.

    Killing cows hurts hindu sentiments, but there is no blashpemy law in India. In this case it is only hearsay. Freedom of expresion is fundamental to a human being on this planet. Any state that cannot uphold this right, needs to be pulled aside by the international community.

    Should the death punishment be upheld, imagine the blashpemy in the hearts & minds of the people of the world against Islam. The law is backfiring. Time to fix it. Just do it.Recommend

  • imran
    Nov 19, 2010 - 11:58PM

    thank you. now if only the powers that be wake up to the reality. on another ironic note the headlines scream “Pakistan elected to UN women’s board.” who are we kidding……. Recommend

  • faraz
    Nov 20, 2010 - 12:47AM

    Objective resolution should also have mentioned the sect of Islam that would guide the constituion. It should have declared Pakistan a Deobandi, Barelwi, Shia or Wahabi state. If the state wants to adopt a religion, then the dominant sect should become the state religion and anyone who belongs to another sect/religion should be ordered to live as second class citizen or to leave the country. Why dont we clearly mention in the constitution that minorities and minor sects will have no freedom of speech and worship. Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Nov 20, 2010 - 1:16AM

    Amina Jilani: How can you say that Aasia Bibi was falsely charged and has been sentenced to death by a judge of an independent judiciary? You were not there at the farm?

    Have you gone through the entire documents available in the court and after perusing them and cross examination of the witnesses, Judge has sentenced Aasia Bibi to death? You haven’t.

    And if you are so sure that Aasia Bibi was an innocent lady, then why don’t you file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on behalf of the accused to stop execution of Aasia Bibi and to set aside the judgment of the lower (Nankana) Court? Recommend

  • CCC
    Nov 20, 2010 - 2:11AM

    @Syed – So what if even Aasia Bibi did say something? How is her death the solution? Won’t more people say such stuff if you execute her? What does that say about the religion? The punishment is grossly disproportionate to the alleged punishment – even if true.

    I’d have to say it would be barbaric to execute her.

    You can’t have one foot in the 13th century and another in 21st. Stop dreaming about democracy as long as you continue such practices.Recommend

  • faraz
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:49AM

    @Syed Mateen

    The poor lady is an illeterate. How can she insult the Prophet (PBUH) when she knows nothing about the religion. She is no scholor of comparative religion who has authored a book on Islam. This Blasphemy law means nothing but persecution of minorities. Recommend

  • Muneer
    Nov 20, 2010 - 8:32AM

    Amina Jilani: How can you say that
    Aasia Bibi was falsely charged and has
    been sentenced to death by a judge of
    an independent judiciary? You were not
    there at the farm?

    Have you gone through the entire
    documents available in the court and
    after perusing them and cross
    examination of the witnesses, Judge
    has sentenced Aasia Bibi to death? You
    haven’t.

    I’m guessing you don’t have any objection to Afia’s conviction on the same grounds that a judge has sentenced her.

    However, as has been discussed the whole concept of blasphemy law is an act of terrorism against human civility and a sign of dark ages and hence must be abolished immediately. Any religion that uses this concept is not a religion but an ideology of terrors which must be discouraged.Recommend

  • Singh
    Nov 20, 2010 - 9:18AM

    in 21st century country with state religion are going back into time. Just imagine if US or europe declare them selves as chrisitan sate, what will happen to million of muslim living in those country. Can non oil producing muslim country servive without $ coming from those country. what happen if US stop giving all these said to poor country. except saudi all muslim country are poor. when ever there is crisis in poor muslim country most aid & money given by non muslim people without judging your religion. So for what I read & see most mullahs are hostile to to other religion. because this notion bring bread & butter on their table. Young ^ educated genration can bring change. Army should take dictation instead of giving one. Now it time for 2nd struggle. Save your state from evil clutch of religion. Throw the bum out of power who does not want yo heed your advice. BUT KEEP IT NON-VIOLENT. USE YOUR VOTE IN NEXT ELECTION. ELECT REAL EDUCATED PEOPLE BUT NOT FROM MADRASSA. In my opnion educated enemy is better than illitrate friend. Hope for best. If we start today our genration might have better life. Leave better world for our genration to come.Recommend

  • Arifq
    Nov 20, 2010 - 9:51AM

    Three Bhutto’s are murdered and hundreds of their workers are killed by suicide bombers and they cannot even file charges against the killers, how do we expect them to change laws set by the same obscurantists? President Zardari should do the right thing by pardoning the lady in question, repealing or changing the laws can be done later.Recommend

  • Shinny Kaur, Dehli
    Nov 20, 2010 - 10:32AM

    Why are Muslims so fragile, that a few words from a Christian woman tends to topple Islam? A few deviants decide to burn the Quran and chaos prevails in your cities and cartoons in Danish newspapers spells disaster in Pakistan. Why is that Pakistani are only offended by visible and external blasphemy?
    In my view you should worry about the internal and non-visible blasphemy prevalent in Pakistan. Against the teachings of your scriptures and traditions you bomb your citizens and you are corrupt to the core (world champions). Is this not blasphemy?Recommend

  • John Bosco
    Nov 20, 2010 - 11:57AM

    Mr. Singh. Very nice analysis, good thouhgts and opinion. It is very painful the Muslim people who live in the western countries got all the rights but they do no raise their voices in favour of minorties in Pakistan. Muslim poeple who live in UK and USA treated far better than people who live in Saudia…It is not my opinion it is my personal experience. Recommend

  • Shinny Kaur, Dehli
    Nov 20, 2010 - 6:10PM

    Why are Pakistanis so fragile now, that a few unkind words from a Christian woman puts Islam in danger, which has stood firm for 1450 years? A few deviants decide to burn the Quran and chaos prevails in your cities and cartoons in Danish newspapers spells disaster in Pakistan. Why is that Pakistani are only offended by visible and external blasphemy?
    In my view you should worry about the internal and non-visible blasphemy prevalent in Pakistan. Against the teachings of your scriptures and traditions you bomb your citizens and you are corrupt to the core (world champions). Is this not blasphemy?Recommend

  • Nov 20, 2010 - 8:04PM

    Blasphemy laws = BLASPHEMOUS Barbarity
    @Mr. Singh, totally agreed!
    @Syed A Mateen, even if she was guilty then what does it mean? we should slay her??? WOW, so much for peace, tolerance and equality.
    Its time we must scrape out this trash (read blasphemy laws) from our constitution.Recommend

  • sybil daniel
    Nov 20, 2010 - 11:19PM

    thanx for writing such a daring piece of writing. yes blasphemy law is indeed used as an instrument of revenge in our society…. Lets say Asia Bibi was rude towards other religions. but wot my personal experience says that the woman belonging to one of those only 3 houses in a village of total muslim community can never dare to use derogatory remarks..Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Nov 22, 2010 - 6:44AM

    The creation of Pakistan was a disaster, blunder, chaos… for the whole subcontinent. Jinnah wanted a secular state. Why did he not then work for a united secular India??? I wish he could come back and just see the greatest crime he committed by not only drawing borders between brothers but a hatred for generations to come Recommend

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