'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Saturday, November 8, 2014
Beena Sarwar: Pakistan needs rule of law. Arrest & punish those who murder & those who incite violence // PRESS RELEASE from the Society for Secular Pakistan
The vicious cycle
continues in the “Islamic Republic
of Pakistan”. It will not
end unless the ‘takfiri’ (declaring someone a non-Muslim) ideology and
justifying murder for alleged ‘blasphemy’ are not curbed.Once again a violent mob incited by calls from mosque
pulpits has killed on the basis of such allegations.
The cycle will continue
because no one is ever punished for either false allegations, or for their
involvement in the criminal act of extra-judicial murder, although laws exist
against both. The ‘blasphemy’ laws of Pakistan are not divinely ordained.
These are man-made laws, imposed on Pakistan by a military dictator.
Gen Ziaul Haq added various clauses to the original Article 295 of the British
law (shared by India and Bangladesh)
that dealt with injuring religious sentiment. While criminalising other aspects
of ‘injuring religious sentiment’,the critical word ‘intent’ was
quietly dropped. ‘Intent’ or ‘neeyat’ is crucial when someone is
accused of such crimes.If the intent was not to defile or injure religious
sentiments, there is no case. It’s time to openly debate these issues and stop
this senseless violence. Even if someone burnt some pages of the Quran, that is
not grounds to kill them.
It is good to see that there is widespread outrage in Pakistan
against the latest ‘blasphemy murder’. Many groups are holding protest demos in
different cities of Pakistan.
Some people have started a collection drive to sponsor the lifelong education
and other needs of the three children (details coming up).
The situation has been spiraling downhill since the early
1990s when the first ‘blasphemy murder’ was committed, right after the
option of life imprisonment lapsed, making death the only option for 295-C
convictions. This is not a religious, but a socio-political and legal issue
stemming from many factors that need to be addressed. Every case investigated
so far has been found to have ulterior motives. Half the cases registered are
by members of one Muslim sect against another, or based on other motives like
financial or business rivalry, land disputes, or caste – jealousies arising out
of changes in the caste system (eg. Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced
to death, and now this brick-kiln worker couple, also Christian).
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan been long pointing
out that the severity of the punishment (mandatory death) is disproportion to
the crime. The ‘blasphemy laws’ give a handle to the unscrupulous to
settle scores. Also pertinent is ‘intent’, a word that was dropped when the
military dictator Gen. Zia amended the ‘blasphemy’ laws. In this situation, the
absence of rule of law in Pakistan,
the lack of a witness protection plan, and the weaknesses in the law enforcing
system with the police being poorly equipped and trained to be effective in
these and other cases, make for a volatile situation.
These issues have been exacerbated by the promotion of a
‘takfiri’ (terming people non-Muslims) ideology perpetuated first through the
Second Amendment of 1984 that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims, followed by Gen.
Ziaul Haq’s Martial Law Order 20 of 1984 that made it a criminal offense for
Ahmadis to practice their faith as Muslims.
PRESS RELEASE from the Society for Secular Pakistan
The Society for Secular
Pakistan (SfSP) strongly condemns the killings of Shazad Masih and his pregnant
wife Shama by the crowd incited by the clerics of three mosques of the villages
in Kasur. We demand that these
clerics should be arrested and punished for inciting people’s religious feeling
to kill the kiln worker who had reportedly some dispute with the kiln owner.
Unfortunately this is not the first time that the sacred place of worship was used
to incite and entice people to kill with impunity. There have been instances
when some fanatics had announced hefty head money for killing so-called
blasphemers and the state did not take any action although it’s a crime.
While the Society for
Secular Pakistan stands for freedom expression, we demand that the state should
register all mosques and the religious leader to keep a close check that nobody
makes hate speeches from the pulpits. They should be free to preach their faith
but not hatred. At present there is no check of the state on over 250,000
mosques and 20,000 madrassahs in the country.
The brutal Kasur
incident is once again a rude reminder to the peace loving people of Pakistan
that ever since perfidious General Zia amended the blasphemy law many more
people have been killed by the fundamentalist vigilantes than before. Such
killings in the name of religion are encouraged by the inappropriate blasphemy
law in the country which needs amendments.
The recent judgment
confirming the death sentence of Asiya Bibi creates an environment in which
tolerance and civility are victims. We appeal to all democratic forces to
protest against these killings and build public opinion against bigoted laws.
Dr Syed Haroon Ahmed,
Released by: Babar Ayaz