The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wanted Pakistan to be a moderate secular state.
On 11th August 1947, Founder of Pakistan addressed constituent Assembly of Pakistan. He said “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
The Constitution of Pakistan provides for fundamental rights. It is clearly written in article 25(1) of constitution of Pakistan that All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. And it was the guaranteer for inter-faith harmony among all religions and sects.
But things were changed, in the 1980s clauses were added to the laws by the military government of dictator General Zia-ul Haq.
As those laws were not legislated by elected representatives of the people of Pakistan, so when she was prime minister, Benazir Bhutto tried to change the blasphemy law because it was being used to terrorise religious minorities, but she couldn’t succeed. She was able to make the existing law more moderate but those changes were reversed by the government of Nawaz Sharif later on.
In the name of the religion, there have been serious human rights violations since the 1973 Constitution were changed to accommodate amendements in the name of blasphemy. This has made the lives of members of minority communities miserable.
Vested interests have made the most of these draconian laws in the wake of personal hatred and killed many an innocent person in the name of blasphemy. There is a need to redo the law, removing the draconian clauses so that no vested interest should be able to exploit the law.
In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer – a prominent critic of the law- he advocated to repeal these draconian laws and he was assassinated by his bodyguard. The assassination divided Pakistan, with some hailing his killer as a hero. In March 2011 Religious Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead in Islamabad, he was also critic of the law and demanded to repeal it.
Shaheed Salmaan Taseer stood for minorities’ rights to review court’s verdict in the case of Asia Bibi, but he was martyred by a religious fanatic and it was a black day in the history of Pakistan when people in northern Punjab, especially in Rawalpindi, celebrated martyrdom of great leader of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also assassinated on 2 March 2011. Both leaders never committed blasphemy but were killed brutally.
This is not the issue of minor girl Rimsha, age 11, or Asia Bibi, this is issue of 3 per cent minorities population of Pakistan. it is around 55,00000 Pakistanis’ issue. Christian community is happy with policies of current progressive government of Pakistan in terms of minorities rights. I would like to share something with readers that Pakistan’s largest minority party Pakistan Masihi League is going to join PPP led liberal and progressive coalition very soon, in my several meetings with president of Pakistan Masihi League, he reiterates his version “I think that People’s Party being a democratic party don’t have prejudice for minorities in Pakistan and have impressive agenda for this community in Pakistan and we praise current government’s policies for minorities and we want to become part of PPP led liberal and progressive alliance”. But they are not happy with justice system in Pakistan. BBC reports that According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan(HRCP), since 1988 around 1,000 cases have been lodged for desecration of the Koran, while nearly 50 cases have been lodged for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). Lower courts have handed down hundreds of convictions in these cases, but nearly all of them have been reversed by the higher courts due to lack of evidence, faults in due process or obvious wrongful motives on the part of the complainants. Hundreds of Christians are among the accused – at least 12 of them were given the death sentence for blaspheming against the Prophet(PBUH).
But most decisions fail the test of the law at the higher judicial level, where offenders are often acquitted. One reason is that organised religious groups are able to influence lower judges more easily than judges of the higher courts, though their influence is growing. Second, rights groups say most cases are motivated by local rivalries which are more easily exposed by the higher judiciary than the lower courts. Legal experts say convictions under the law regulating blasphemy against the Prophet are easier because it does not establish a link between an offence and the intention, so that even an unintentional act can also be treated as a willful offence.
Now, this is test case for all concerned quarters, what should be done with this law and justice system to ensure justice for minorities of Pakistan, is fairly clear to them and someday soon they have to make some amendments in both law and justice system. Every honest and patriot Pakistani asks “When Pakistan will be revived in true letter and spirit of Jinnah’s Pakistan?”
Courtesy: The News Tribe