Pakistan blasphemy law--a tool of vengeance. By Sheraz Khurram Khan


The withdrawal of blasphemy charge by one Kalu Sunaira of Sanglahill against the blasphemy accused Yousaf Masih yet again goes to prove that the law is widely being abused in Pakistan and the majority merely invokes it to settle its personal scores.
The controversial law has been hanging on the heads of religious minorities’ communities as Damocles’ sword for so many years. All demands aimed at repeal of Blasphemy Law have fallen on the deaf ears of previous governments as well as on the current government of President General Pervez Musharraf. Nevertheless, unlike previous governments President General Pervez Musharraf directed that a high-ranking police official do initial investigation of the blasphemy charges but he had to revoke his decision because fundamentalist Muslim clerics started staging protest demonstrations across the country against the decision. Why did the hardliner Muslim leaders voice their opposition to Musharraf’s directive? What do they want Pakistan to turn into? Why are they hell bent upon sowing seeds of hatred, divisions, and segmentations? Are they not satisfied with their erstwhile ‘accomplishments’? Regrettably, the said elements fear they would lose hold over people who they exploit emotionally after repeal of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws against religious minorities.
On the one hand the unprincipled clerics profess that they are for peace while on the other they not only fail to deliver tolerance, peace and harmony but cause others to fail as well in delivering the same virtues. They never realize they have a yawning credibility gap, which direly needs bridging. Instead of reforming themselves they have adopted the vicious policy of directing their hate agenda at weaker segments of Pakistan.
Who are they serving? Islam? Is this what Islam teaches? Even now things could take a turn for better if they (the so called champions of Islam) shun their hate promoting agenda. Irrespective of the nature of blasphemy charges-----true or concocted does blasphemy law not encourage blasphemy upon blasphemy since one has to make reference of the blasphemous charge/s time and again from the time of lodging of First Information Report (FIR) till final verdict of the judge in the court?
Conversely, no leaf is stirred when a Muslim levels charges against other religions for instance Christianity. Consider the nature of blasphemous charges. ‘The holy Bible has undergone changes’. ‘Christians are infidels because they call Jesus Christ son of God’.
One may condone an illiterate and ignorant Muslim for leveling blasphemous charges against any other religion of the world but levelling of the profane charges against other religions by quite a good number of educated Muslims is shocking beyond belief. One wonders who drums all this in the minds of people? Of course it is handiwork of the hardliner Muslim prayer leaders, who think they are doing great service to their religion and to the humanity by wedging a drive between people of different faiths.
Some years back one of my Muslim friend asked me if the Holy Bible had changed I told him it hadn’t but the chap did not seem to believe me. Perturbed, as I was not expecting this rigidity from his side, I asked him to bring me the ‘original version of the Bible’. Our conversation on this topic did not advance any longer for he did not have to say anything in support of his allegation that challenged originality of the Holy Bible.
Given majority’s preoccupation with attempting to ram Islam down everyone’s throat in Pakistan all conversations on topics involving religions do not end peacefully here. The same conversation that took place between my friend and I could have turned uglier for me. It could have been entirely distorted if taken place between people of two faiths in some under-developed part of the country.
Despite the fact that Kalu has withdrawn the false accusations he had charged Yousaf Masih with, one is really concerned about Yousaf Masih’s future in Pakistan. He would remain under the scare of being inflicted with blasphemy charges all the time. On eruption of a volatile debate on religion he may easily come under fire again. Who is responsible for the emotional, psychological trauma that he has had to experience ever since Kalu leveled fake blasphemy charges on him?. Kalu Sunaira as well as all the prayer leaders of Sanglahill who were backing Kalu should be penalized.
The biased Muslim religious leaders should be grilled as to why they provoked people to torch churches and other institutions belonging to Christians in Sanglahill? The Nazim of Sanglahill and high police officials of the area should also be questioned for failing to maintain law and order in the town. Instead of dubbing religious minorities as anti-Islam the shortsighted, opportunist and unprincipled Muslim leaders should first sweep before their own doors.
The law in question is only a whipping tool in the hands of majority in Pakistan that can easily be invoked against any non-Muslim on witness of an individual. The religious bigots, who have already made the lives of minority communities in the country hard, have got a very potential tool of victimizing religious minorities of Pakistan. I fail to understand why would a non-Muslim living in a predominantly Muslim land commit blasphemy? Has he gone nuts or fails to make out what lies for him in store in case he commits blasphemy? When he has become accustomed to social and constitutional discrimination and knows well what he has to forgo for being a minority in Pakistan then why at all he would kick up a trouble for himself by committing blasphemy? Even the one topping the crazy most individual belonging to minority communities would not do so.
After witnessing of misuse of the law the first call for its (blasphemy law) repeal should have come from Muslim scholars but unfortunately it was not to be. I am sure possible plummeting in their popularity graph would have kept many from speaking in favour of repeal of blasphemy law.
All laws that discriminate against religious minorities in Pakistan should be scrapped. Their (laws) repeal would remove feelings of alienation and sense of depravation among minorities. The repeal of blasphemy law, I am convinced would be hailed by international community as well and it would go to amelioration of Pakistan’s image abroad.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad.

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