Blasphemy laws are a tool to suppress minorities in Pakistan

You blaspheme, You must Die! Blasphemy Law (Clause, 295_C) of Pakistan Panel Court reads; “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to Fine.” The law prescribes a fixed death penalty for all those who are found guilty the option of life imprisonment was made defunct after a 1991 Federal Shariat Court Judgment. Blasphemy law was introduced for the first time during British Rule in 1860

Pakistan where religious narrative is dominant, religious figures and maniacs control the country and they have full support of state machinery and military establishment, in their view “blasphemy” is an unpardonable offense. Every one have license to kill anyone publicly in the name of blasphemy no need of waiting for court trials and judgment. Hence a Assailant can Easily become a “Ghazi”, “Hero” or “Martyr” of the nation.

The punishment of blasphemy, “10 years imprisonment or fine will be imposed if some one found guilty of blasphemy.” Later on in 1927 with few amendments more clauses were added in the Blasphemy Law. In 1953 when Anti- Ahmadiyya riots erupted, the Jamaat-e-Islam demanded amendments in Blasphemy Law but the Government of Pakistan didn’t entertain them. Yet when in 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya riots erupted again the second amendment was passed in Constitution of Pakistan because at that time a movement was launched by all Islamist parties by name of “Tahreek-e-Khatme Nabuwwat”.

Later on in 1984 under the regime of Pakistani Dictator Zia-ul-Haq anti-Ahmadiyya ordinances were brought out that were added in the Constitution of Pakistan, which restricted the freedom of religion for Ahmadi’s. According to this law “Ahmadi’s cannot call themselves Muslim or ‘ pose as Muslim’ which is punishable by three years in prison”.

Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan are derived from Holy Book of Muslims Quran and Hadith but several Muslim schools of thought and scholars do not agree on the content as they think that these quotes or even verses are misinterpreted by the dominant Muslim sect of Pakistan, and with support from establishment they are using Blasphemy Laws as a tool to achieve their own interests and agendas. For instance this one verse from Holy Quran which directly mentions blasphemy (sabb) is 6:108.[5] The verse calls on Muslims to not blaspheme against deities of other religions, lest people of that religion retaliate by blaspheming against Allah. “And do not insult (wa la tasubbu) those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult (fa-yasubbu) Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do.” [Quran 6:108]

An other verse from Quran; “The only punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides, or they should be imprisoned. This shall be a disgrace for them in this world, and in the Hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. Except those who repent before you overpower them; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” [Quran 5:33–34]

There are few Hadith also referred to as justification of blaspheme to be executed. But not everyone agrees on these quotes. Secular Muslim people in Pakistan have different thought about Blasphemy Laws as they have always demanded for an end of Blasphemy Laws but never succeeded because of strong hands behind this ideology.

Religious sentiment is a powerful tool in Pakistan and had been always used by masters of Pakistan to control people, creating pressure groups of religious parties and then staying in power as long as needed. As minorities and specially wealthy Hindus are an easy prey in Pakistan so extortion from minorities in Pakistan is a common crime rarely reported because of fear, victims pay huge amounts (Protection Money) and favors to Mosques and Madrasas if they have to save their life otherwise they have to leave business and their properties.

Zafar Sahito, Vice President Jeay Sindh Thinkers Forum, presenting his views on “South Asia Affairs”, the weekly news show by Vivek Sinha.
Click on the YouTube link to watch the conversation.

“Due to Coronavirus our temple is closed so I perform my early morning prayers (Bhajan) at home only. One day my neighbor knocked at my door and threatened our family saying that you Hindus go to your “Cow Mata” country India and sing your Bhajans there, if you want to live in Pakistan live quietly don’t chant Krishna nonsense every early morning.” One of my Hindu friend sent me this message about two months ago. “ …believe me I was not loudly chanting Lord Krishna’s Bhajan but my neighbor always looks for any opportunity or reason to suppress us so we sell our apartment to them and leave this place, while they always listen to Indian music loudly all the time. Even there is a Mosque-Madrasa in our apartments where loudspeakers are used continuously!”

Is this not a depriving situation? Is this not violation of basic human rights? Is this not a crime? I feel sad at this state of affairs!

In 2009, Aasya Noreen famous as (Asia Bibi), a Pakistani Christian was accused of blasphemy. “Why did you use my cup to drink water? You are a Non Muslim! a “kafir”. This was the argument that Noreen had with her co-workers that led to blasphemy charge on Noreen and she was arrested in 2010. She was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death by hanging but in 2018 Supreme Court of Pakistan in an appeal acquitted her based on insufficient evidence (in reality it was due to international pressures). Yet Asia Bibi was not released from custody because of safety concerns. A Muslim Cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty of 500,000 Pakistani Rupees to any one who would kill Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi, a Christian, was falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. Asia Bibi had to spend a decade in prison.

Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer both were assassinated for advocating on behalf of Asia Bibi and opposing the Blasphemy Laws. Finally, in 2019 Asia Bibi arrived in Canada but is still receiving life threats.

Mishal Khan a student of mass communications at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan Pakistan, was killed in 2017 within the university premises by a angry mob over allegations of posting blasphemous content online. Later on during investigations nothing could be proved against him, only secular views, quotes and books on democracy and equality of humanity. But we had lost a beautiful soul in Mishal Khan!

Mishal Khan was in the university hostel when he was stripped naked and severely beaten by a group of students and then shot. He succumbed to his injuries, while he lay on the floor the angry mob was kicking his lifeless body and beating it with wooden planks. His body was then thrown from the second floor of the building, even they tried to burn his body while chanting “Allah-o-Akbar”. At least twenty five law enforcement officers were present on this spot but no action was taken by them to save the life of Mishal Khan.

Recently on July 29, 2020 an American, Tahir Naseem, was shot and killed inside a Pakistani courtroom while on trial for alleged blasphemy. He was an Ahmadi, though my friends told me that Tahir Naseem was no longer an Ahmadi, he was just having some mental issues.

Tahir Naseem was shot inside a courtroom in Pakistan while he was on trial for alleged blasphemy. The murderer was hailed as a hero in Pakistan.

“A light appeared in my dream last night and ordered me to kill this enemy of Allah so you will be awarded with gift of heaven,” said the murderer of Tahir Naseem. The murderer was praised by a majority of people in Pakistan, even the government officials and political personnel used the murderer’s photo as their display picture (DP) on social media ID’s.

Do you think that the murder of any human being is morally legitimate on the basis of his belief, even if he is a ‘atheist’ or an infidel? Why not forgiveness is chosen over vengeance?

When I reported this case and announced a campaign on social media against Blasphemy Law, forced conversions and enforced disappearances in Pakistan and organized a protest at Consulate General of Pakistan at Houston, Texas I received many life threats and was targeted by unknown profiles on social media.

Screenshot of the death threats being received.

In a report of National Commission for Justice and Peace it is said that from 1987 till 2019, total number of blasphemy cases reported in Pakistan are as under: 633 — Muslims, 494 –Ahmadi’s, 187– Christians, 21–Hindus. But the actual number is much more because a lot of cases are never reported due to fear of persecution. My sources say that within the last 40 days over 42 blasphemy cases have been reported in Pakistan.

Zafar Sahito
Zafar Sahito
Zafar Sahito is a Sindhi nationalist and Vice President of Jeay Sindh Thinkers Forum.

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