Lawyers to lawmakers: Supreme Court Bar wants no changes to blasphemy laws

Published: December 19, 2010
Email
Unanimous resolution warns government against pardoning Aasia Bibi; Asma Jahangir slams judiciary’s ‘interference’ in bar matters.

Unanimous resolution warns government against pardoning Aasia Bibi; Asma Jahangir slams judiciary’s ‘interference’ in bar matters.

LAHORE: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), on Saturday, passed a unanimous resolution demanding that the government refrain from making any changes to blasphemy laws or pardoning Aasia Bibi.

Aasia is a Christian woman who was sentenced to death after being convicted by a lower court. She is currently being held at the Sheikhupura jail.

The SCBA body, in the resolution, called alleged government initiaives to amend or repeal the blasphemy laws “a shameful effort being made under a foreign agenda, which is strongly condemnable”. The text of the resolution read, “In no circumstances, any amendment encouraging or creating any effort to defile the sacred name and personality of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) can be brought in the statute book.”

The committee, through a unanimous vote, warned the government and members of the Parliament to refrain from implementing any such proposal.

The SCBA and the legal fraternity will never accept any such pardon or amendment and would resist them, the resolution carried by the SCBA body added. The members also expressed concern over Punjab governor’s attempts to get a presidential pardon for Aasia while an appeal is pending before the high court.

The resolution was passed in a meeting chaired by the SCBA president and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir. Sanaullah Zahid, the SCBA Finance secretary moved the resolution.

When Zahid moved the resolution, the president pointed out that it was not on the agenda to which Zahid said, “There have been times when you have moved resolutions not on the agenda”. Jahangir was then told by the finance secretary that she had the right to dissent “though it will be carried by the majority”. The president chose not to exercise the right.

The meeting was attended by SCBA secretary, Qamar Zaman Qureshi; Sindh vice president (VP), KA Wahab; Punjab VP, Zubair Khalid; Balochistan VP, Jahanzeb Khan Jadoon; finance secretary, Sanaullah Zahid; additional secretary, Muhammad Saleheen; and 16 members of its executive committee.

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) has already carried a similar resolution. A group of LHCBA members is also holding daily protests in front of the Lahore High Court building against any moves to amend the blasphemy laws.

Later, addressing a press conference, Asma Jahangir said that judges of superior judiciary should not intervene in bar associations’ elections. She said, “I have received a lot of complaints from all corners of the country about the judiciary’s interference in bar elections.” The SCBA president particularly referred to the upcoming elections of the Pakistan Bar Council and said that there were judges who “want their favourites to win”. “This is not a good tradition and must be stopped, “Asma added.

Ruling out a confrontation with the courts, she said that she could only make efforts to improve things. “SCBA’s independence will not be compromised. Its relationship with the Supreme Court will only be that of an independent bar,” the SCBA president stated.

Asma Jahangir said “meaningless meetings with the judiciary” were as damaging for the bar as “meaningless meetings with the executive are for the judiciary”. Jahangir also criticised the government’s performance and its failure to enunciate clear a policy on key issues.

While talking about independence of the judiciary, she said, “We still have a long way to go. The goal can only be achieved if all judges act independently.

Responding to a question, she reaffirmed that chief justices of the high courts could not take suo motu action under Article 199 of the constitution. “I have brought this fact to the attention of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP),” she added.

Jahangir said that it was a lawyer’s right to criticise Supreme Court’s (SC) decisions and added that the bar should always keep a vigilant eye on the performance of the SC. Expressing reservations about the National Judicial Policy (NJP), Jahangir warned against the ‘murder of justice’ in the name of a good disposal rate.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2010.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (26)

  • sheheryar
    Dec 19, 2010 - 3:39PM

    This law is not against any particular person or religion . Any one (that includes a Muslim also) says any thing wrong about the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). He/She should be sentenced to death.
    I wonder that why some Human Right Activist are offending it … while they should look upon that any person , by doing that act is hurting the feelings of millions of Muslims all around the world. So for hurting that million of people and making false comments about that personality that teach us what is Peace, what is humanity and showed us the righteous path. That person should be found guilty.
    I am a computer science student, So I don’t know about laws. I said what seems logical to me .
    Thanks.Recommend

  • Saeed
    Dec 19, 2010 - 5:24PM

    I think SCBA should go one step further. It should demand that all members of the lawyers community and ulema should be authorised to punish blasphemers on sight without encumbering the courts unnecessarily. Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 5:40PM

    Misuse of the law should be taken care of… the law should not be amended. Just precautionary measures should be taken against fake allegations so that no innocent should be made subject of ochlocracy.Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 5:45PM

    @Saeed,
    You are wrong. Every one has a right to a trial. That is how we distinguish justice. We are a Muslim society, we will loose the essence of Islam if we loose justice. We might survive without a good economy, but we can’t survive without justice. A court will definitely decide whats right, this will prevent the so called ulema from just blaming anyone in accordance to their own enmity.Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 7:05PM

    @Hassan
    Heard of something called ‘sarcasm’?Recommend

  • Yasir
    Dec 19, 2010 - 7:25PM

    Poor Asma has been over run by fanaticsRecommend

  • Yasir
    Dec 19, 2010 - 7:27PM

    This law is not against any particular
    person or religion .

    This law is certanily against one group; the sane minded.Recommend

  • Adil
    Dec 19, 2010 - 7:52PM

    President SCBA Asma Jahangir has categorically denied that any such a resolution was adopted and has issued a rebuttal.Apparently,these issues were discussed at the meeting but NO resolution was passed. Jahangir has been a crusader against the blasphemy law and has publicly expressed her view that the LHC’s decision to restrain the President from issuing the pardon to Aasia Bibi was unconstitutional. It is highly unlikely she could ever think of supporting such a resolution, issuing such a statement or being party to either. Facts should be checked before they appear on newspaper websites and in print. Recommend

  • Oscar Wilde
    Dec 19, 2010 - 7:53PM

    okay, okay, Islam is a religion of peace, now please remove that sword off my neck…Recommend

  • Ali
    Dec 19, 2010 - 8:29PM

    @Hassan
    I think (or hope) that Saeed is being sarcastic.

    @sheheryar
    As a computer science student, you should be better at logic. And you do not need to “know about laws”. You should, however, know that this is about misuse of laws. People use it to settle old scores, which Aasia Bibi’s case is about.
    Finally, nobody should be put to death for offending muslims (or anyone else, for that matter). If you think a person is conjuring false statements about your Prophet, you need to prove them wrong peacefully – not by killing them!Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 8:48PM

    @xeeshan.
    lol ok… that comment seemed pretty plain..Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 8:50PM

    @Oscar Wilde,

    ……..prejudice.Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 10:34PM

    The SCBA should first eradicate the tendency of few prominent lawyers whose chambers are involved in fabricating cases of blasphemy, harassment of women following divorce and maintenance suits etc. Gender bias that exists amongst few lawyers should be prevented and these lawyers either restrained from practice or sent for counselling to prevent sexual harassment.Recommend

  • Tahir
    Dec 19, 2010 - 11:12PM

    Sentence of death is against the teachings and tradition of holy prophet(PBUH), as he never sentenced any person to death or even to a minor punishment for the offence of defiling his sacred name or person. It is admitted fact that even the woman who used to abuse him and throw garbage on him, was treated with unprecedented kindness by him when she fell ill. Hence the punishment of death or long imprisonment is unislamic and contradictory to the tradition of the holy prophet who was rehmat/peace for everyone. Killing people in his name is not going to please him as he never allowed it. Additionally, lenient view should be adopted in view of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. Today we are living in a global village where we, as muslims, enjoy all the rights and freedoms in western world. Muslims are allowed to preach and observe their religion in christian secular societies. It requires us to respect their views of justice and human rights.
    Moreover,the extremist approach should be condemned, as it is this mindset which also persecutes the women and moderate muslims for exercising their rights. It promotes intolernce in religious matters resulting even in sectarian violence in different muslim sects. All human beings are brothers and should be treated like brothers.
    Therefore, the perpetrator should be given lighter punishment to deter her/him from doing such outrageous acts and endangering peace and tranquility among diferent religious communities again, in view of the stage of the civilazation in Pakistn. Hence, we condemn the punishment being too harsh and at the same time strongly condemn the perpetrator of such blasphemous acts. But, we strongly advocate that the right of the accused to fair and unbiased trial must be ensured by the State. She may be retried by non-muslim judges. Law should be amended to make it in consonance with the human rights and tradition of holy prophet (PBUH).Recommend

  • Advocate My Foot
    Dec 20, 2010 - 12:57AM

    @oscar Wilde:

    Bravo… Bravo…

    “When unlearned Practioners become the advocates of their practice, Surely the Practice will fall in Disrepute.” – Advocate My Foot (namely me)Recommend

  • sheheryar
    Dec 20, 2010 - 1:55AM

    @Oscar that means you still wants to do such shame full acts… Recommend

  • Hasan
    Dec 20, 2010 - 4:07AM

    @sheheryar

    Please tell me how one person making an ‘inappropriate’ comment can hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims all around the world.

    Further, as a computer science student, the ability to logically think through a problem is essential. Please take the time to research the current laws relating to blasphemy before determining what you believe to be an appropriate sentence.

    Finally, it would seem that higher education may be wasted on you.Recommend

  • hussain
    Dec 20, 2010 - 4:39AM

    That law is absolutely ridiculous. Its highly discriminatory as well. Muslims offend other religions carelessly without facing consequences, when minorities “offend” Islam they are taken to the noose. It is pathetic and has no space in the 21st century. Recommend

  • sheheryar
    Dec 20, 2010 - 1:17PM

    @Hassan
    In the days of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), such cases are handled by the Prophet(PBUH) himself. So, we don’t have to think twice.law is already present. i am not against the human freedom. But there are some serious limitaions. If any person has been left freely, then every other person will start such acts. Laws are made for the Humanity to leave peacefully. such laws are made to that no one could ever try to do any false acts.Recommend

  • Dec 20, 2010 - 1:28PM

    @Ali,

    I hope so…Recommend

  • Dec 20, 2010 - 1:47PM

    @sheheryar,

    Two things….

    See how Prophet (PBUH) treated these type of acts himself…. refer to Tahir’s comment. So that rules out unfair decisions.
    Who is to see that that those people who are deciding to punish-on-the-spot are not just blaming out’f personal enmity? That is the reason courts are there. We can’t and will never let mobs to decide the fate of our fellow country men. To live peacefully, the only thing that we can do is justice. We can not punish some one to death without thinking twice.

    “such laws are made to that no one could ever try to do any false acts.”

    Quoting what you just said, I’m not in favour of amending these laws, but that doesn’t mean that they can be misused. Misuse of such laws should be treated with equally harsh punishments. When you will let people decide on the spot (so-called ulemas or even witnesses), they won’t have enough legal knowledge to make fair decisions, have prejudice or personal enmity, and they will turn it into a witch-hunt !!Recommend

  • Hasan
    Dec 20, 2010 - 2:32PM

    @sheheryar

    As a lawyer I ask you to seriously re-consider your argument – we are discussing whether the existing punishment for blasphemy is appropriate (in the 21st century).

    I pose this question to you: Why is it that the rest of the world can live peacefully without such archaic laws, but here in Pakistan we can’t?

    These laws in there current state are a shackle to the Pakistan people.Recommend

  • sheheryar
    Dec 21, 2010 - 1:19AM

    @Hassan yes,Tahir was right, no one was sentenced, but was killed, even if they were hiding in the Cloth of Kabaa. There are also very accurate examples available. I was wondering, that are you people enjoying this matter or what. Telling people about such garbage examples… LAME. I am not a person of low mind-set. I just wanted to make sure that no one Abuses any Holy person. I don’t feel happy whenever any Holy person is abused or misunderstood. or any person being killed for that reason. How can you people resist. I have no concern about that Afia or Asia whatever. I just don’t want any person abusing any Holy person that includes Prophet Jesus also. In the end ISLAM is the most modern religion … with most modern laws. Each law is made purely for humanity. No matter we understand it or not. even it is the 21st or 2100st century. There is also a concept of IJMAH in islam. This law is made to stop such acts . not to kill any body. Why don’t you see the non-Muslim enjoy abusing the Holy persons. Like wise Traffic laws are not made with intension to make stop the cars, but to maintain the traffic smooth and people convenient. Assalam o Alaikum Wa Rehmatullah. and thanks. Recommend

  • Dec 22, 2010 - 10:56AM

    “Tahir was right, no one was sentenced, but was killed, even if they were hiding in the Cloth of Kabaa.”

    It is haram to kill even an insect in the vicinity of ka’aba. so those examples are wrong.

    I know that disrespect to Holy persons or entities should be treated strictly. Thats why I said in my first post that the current law is good enough to handle that. What I am emphasizing on is, that this law is being misused !

    We should definitely make sure to act against anyone involved in such cases, but not on hands of some damned priest or molvi with a ‘divine’ mission, but in a court of law!! And to prevent the misuse of this law against innocent people (especially non-muslims) equally strict actions should be taken against people upholding fake allegations.Recommend

  • sheheryar
    Dec 22, 2010 - 10:31PM

    I also want to make sure that no one misuses that law … we have to change ways to get the evidence, so that we can make sure that the person is guilty or not. But if the person is found guilty . He/She must be punished strictly. Recommend

  • Dec 22, 2010 - 10:50PM

    @shehryar,

    to be correct: punished strictly in the court of law. and not by a mob.Recommend

More in Punjab