A tough call

The many who have devoted time, effort, columns and condemnation on the malevolent blasphemy laws must press on.

Amina Jilani December 03, 2010

The many who have devoted time, effort, columns and condemnation on the subject of the malevolent blasphemy laws — Sections 295-B and C of the Penal Code — must not let themselves be sidetracked by ‘leaks’ or by the many scandals this government manages non-stop to stir up and certainly not by the blockages put in their way. They must press on regardless.

Sherry Rehman, a brave parliamentarian, who has had a taste of the PPP-Z’s style of disciplining members with whom it is displeased, needs encouragement and support. Despite her differences with her party and the fact that many of its members lack the attributes given by spherical objects, she has submitted a private member’s bill seeking amendments to the laws. This, of course, is not enough as the two pernicious sections need to be repealed, but she knows her fellow legislators and of the wide existence of bigotry, intolerance and lack of sense and has therefore soft-pedalled in the hope of getting something rather than nothing.

The proposed ‘Amendment’ to the Blasphemy Laws Act 2010 suggests that blasphemy cases be heard by the High Courts, supposedly on her presumption that the judges will be less susceptible to threats from the religious militants, are better protected than the judges of the lower courts and are learned.

The party co-chairman and the president of the Republic made noises about being amenable to granting clemency to the woman sentenced to death on a false charge of blasphemy, but was later thwarted, and Rehman’s bill gravely wounded.

Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif of the Lahore High Court on November 29 banned a presidential pardon. And on October 29, a division bench of that same court headed by Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry (the next chief justice of the court) had upheld the death sentence for blasphemy in a case in which an Ahmadi was accused under the iniquitous 295-C. So it would seem that the odds are against anyone campaigning for a repeal — or even an amendment to the laws which not only undermine justice and decency but pervert true Islamic principles. And then, it gets worse. On November 30, the Federal Shariat Court (which should not exist) prescribed the death penalty for anyone blaspheming against any and all prophets.

Then, Sherry Rehman and all those objecting to injustice and intolerance have to contend with the more repellent of the PPP-Z members, one being the Man from Monticello, who on November 25 badly insulted the community of eagles by referring to himself as a ‘shaheen’ and told the press that the blasphemy laws could not be touched for as long as he is law minister. Hope is, in this case, that as nothing lasts forever one day he will not be law minister and perhaps a parliament of this country will see sense and do away with laws that repel the civilised democratic world and subvert Pakistan’s place in the comity of nations. This latest death sentence passed on a woman is actually directed against this country’s reputation, a reputation already hanging by the slimmest of threads.

A repeal, or an amendment, is a tough call, what with the superior court and the law minister uniting on the sole subject of the blasphemy laws whilst being at odds with each other on all other matters.

(Monticello man is at odds with many. Wearing what seemed to be a Christmas cracker hat, with a finger pointed in the air, on November 30 he trumpeted into a microphone warning the “rulers of Lahore” to mend their ways or...).

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2010.


Jahanzaib Haque | 11 years ago | Reply @Humanity we have a huge influx of comments daily which is the reason for the delay. Some comments on sensitive topics go through two levels of clearance which takes more time, but this is necessary to ensure harmful content/comments outside our policy are removed. Please be patient as our web staff sift through the comments. Best regards (Web Editor)
Humanity | 11 years ago | Reply @R S Johar wrote "If this trend is not halted now, dooms day is not far away." The trend was not halted in 1953 when it could have been quashed with one policeman. The nation could have been nurtured towards a tolerant, progressive character, instead of the current bigoted demagogue mindset. Indeed, Allah knoweth best as He is the master planner. The grave that the bigots dug to bury one sect has become their own pitfall! See excerpt from REPORT OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY CONSTITUTED UNDER PUNJAB ACT II OF 1954 TO ENQUIRE INTO THE PUNJAB DISTURBANCES OF 1953 (page 387): "And it is our deep conviction that if the Ahrar had been treated as a pure question of law and order, without any political considerations, one District Magistrate and one Superintendent of Police could have dealt with them. Consequently, we are prompted by something that they call a human conscience to enquire whether, in our present state of political development, the administrative problem of law and order cannot be divorced from a democratic bed fellow called a Ministerial Government, which is so remorselessly haunted by political nightmares. But if democracy means the subordination of law and order to political ends—then Allah knoweth best and we end the report."
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