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 This, of course, is not enough as the two pernicious sections need to be repealed, but she knows her fellow legislators and of the wide existence of bigotry, intolerance and lack of sense and has therefore soft-pedalled in the hope of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.
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