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Pakistan’s blasphemy law: how can we end this colossal absurdity?

The country’s blasphemy law is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. As the case of 14-year-old Christian Rimsha Masih gains global attention, why have politicians failed to act?

By: Mohammed Hanif

Fourteen years ago, around the time young Rimsha Masih, now in jail under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, was born, a Roman Catholic bishop walked into a courthouse in Sahiwal, quite close to my hometown in Central Punjab. The Right Rev John Joseph was no ordinary clergyman; he was the first native bishop in Pakistan and the first ever Punjabi bishop anywhere in the world. He was also a brilliant and celebrated community organiser, the kind of man oppressed communities look up to as a role model. Joseph walked in alone, asking a junior priest to wait outside the courthouse. Inside the court, he took out a handgun and shot himself in the head. The bullet in his head was his protest against the court’s decision to sentence a fellow Christian, Ayub Masih, to death for committing blasphemy. Masih had been charged with arguing with a Muslim co-worker over religious matters. The exact content of the conversation cannot be repeated here because that would be blasphemous. The bishop had campaigned long and hard to get the blasphemy law repealed without any luck. He wrote prior to his death: “I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people.”

Joseph had been pursuing another case, in which an 11-year-old, Salamat Masih, along with his father and uncle, was accused of scribbling something blasphemous on the wall of the mosque. We don’t really know what he wrote, because reproducing it, here or in court, would constitute blasphemy.

The boy’s uncle, Manzoor Masih, was shot dead during the trial. The Masih case went to the high court, where a judge, Arif Bhatti, applied common sense and released him. A year later the judge was murdered in his own chambers, and his killers claimed that the judge had committed blasphemy by freeing those accused in the blasphemy case.

Frustrated and in a fit of rage, the bishop meditated and reached the conclusion that he should kill himself publicly to make his point.

You could argue that Joseph should have organised candlelight vigils, gone on a hunger strike, hired better lawyers. But he had tried everything and realised that a bullet in the head in the middle of a court was his only way to draw attention to this colossal absurdity called blasphemy law.

He was wrong. The law stayed. Many more Christians were killed.

There are situations though, where confronted with the prospect of a 14-year-old being sentenced to death, as a celebrated community leader you can’t do anything but take a gun to your head.

And hope for the best.

Continue reading Pakistan’s blasphemy law: how can we end this colossal absurdity?

Army Gives Clear Deadline to Settle Karachi Issue

– By Aijaz Ahmed

IH Exclusive Report

The cat seems to have finally come out of the bag after dilly-dallying and procrastination of about three months as military top brass has issued a clear cut deadline to the struggling and fragile political government both in the center and the province to settle Karachi issue by 30th October, sources in the power corridors have revealed with complete confidence and authority.

Zardari-Kayani meeting, a file photo

This scribe saw fear on the faces of many in the ruling structure, and heard certain whispers in the parliament lobbies and pathways of other buildings on the power map of Islamabad ever since the military spokesperson issued a statement on Karachi issue in very awkward manner that put already weak government under further pressure. The fear appeared to have increased manifold the day Army Chief had a detailed meeting with president Asif Ali Zardari at the Capital Hill of Islamabad.

The follow up event, which was none other than the corps commanders’ meeting, was an additional factor due to its unusual end as no formal statement was issued against the normal practice for the last so many years. The footage issued by ISPR was also evident of the fact that the military top commanders were looking grim and worried over the situation of Karachi. The military hierarchy seemed to be under pressure more so as a large number of the common Pakistanis and almost all analysts of high stature consider army leadership responsible for the situation due to its clear-cut support for MQM, a creation of General Zia ul Haq.

The latest deterioration in the situation in Karachi appeared to be due to the multiple factors with the political interests of MQM remaining at the top. The worsening situation has alarmed every one as the situation strengthened fears about the very survival of Pakistan. Many among the political forces, traders, and even liberal intellectuals who have been posturing neutrality are very much disappointed in the present political dispensation and have demanded the deployment of Army under Article 245 of the Constitution.

Only two rival political parties, PPP and PML-N were still resisting army action due to certain reasons. However army was looking reluctant to accept the responsibility, but at the later stage the thinking appeared to have changed and an indication of will was given by Army Chief himself few days back. In this scenario the army chief had a one to one meeting with the president. The insiders having close relations with both presidency and the GHQ are of the view that the army chief has conveyed sentiments of his colleagues in the army to the civilian government. Sources from both sides confided that the October 30th has been given as deadline with a clear-cut message that ‘if the situation does not improve and issues are not addressed then we will address Karachi issue in our own way’. The message, according to the sources, has spread fear among the top party leadership as this is not only a message for an action in Karachi, but also an indication of distrust over the competence and abilities of the civilian government to deal with the situations, sources maintained. The action will not remain confined to Karachi only, the government at center and the provinces will be sent back home was the actual message between the lines, sources added. ….

Read more → Indus Herald

People of the World: Please Take Note! Where is your Conscience!

“Shattered Humanity on Move Again”

By Dr Ahmed H. Makhdoom

According to the Times Of India News: [“ AMRITSAR: As many as 600 Hindus, including women and children, arrived in India via Attari land border on Monday. Custom’s deputy commissioner RK Duggal said that the group arrived here on pilgrim visas. Sources at Attari said that these Hindus, largely from Sindh province of Pakistan, had expressed their desire to permanently settle in India and have come with a large quantity of luggage and household goods.” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Large-contingent-of-Hindus-from-Pakistan-arrives-in-India/articleshow/9193434.cms]

This is absolutely sad, heart-breaking, heart-wrenching news! Why do the simple, innocent and peace-loving people be forced to take such painful and nerve-wrecking course in their life? Why do they have to resort to this tragic move of leaving their Motherland?

Why do they have to abandon and forsake their motherland where the ashes of their ancestors lay strewn in field, plains, hills and rivers! Why do they give up on their motherland, where the bones of their loved ones are entombed since centuries? Why do they have to take such a drastic action! Does the civilized world take note of such tragic, catastrophic and calamitous plight of desperate human beings?

Oh Prince! How can this maid ever abandon, Thought and yearning for my own kith and kin? Within heart and soul are love’s sharp skewers, Pierced inside me without blacksmith’s hammers; Darts and arrows coated with love and longing, Thousands of them my beloveds kept striking; Humble dwellings back home and kindred dears, Alas! This unfortunate maid had not seen for years.” (Shah Bhittai: Translated by Ahmed Makhdoom) (Note: In Bhittai’s epic ‘Umar Marvi;’ Soomra=the caste of Prince Umar, the ruler of Sindh)

Surely, it is not easy or joyful leaving ones beloved kindred folks, with whom they have spent years with love, happiness and mutual respect and admiration! Certainly, it is not pleasant to leave ones Motherland, where one had stayed since centuries! Really, there must be something wrong! Certainly, serious human rights violations must have taken place! Surely, the lives of these despondent people must have been at risk! Surely, these simpleton people must have been threatened, abused and vilified!

Where is the civilized world? Why they have shut their eyes to the sorrows and sufferings of human beings? Why the powerful countries, world’s human rights organizations, international social and welfare organizations and resourceful, potent and mighty individuals closed their ears to the cries of pain and anguish of these punctured, pushed and punched people?

This is a clear case of ethnic cleansing and serious human rights abuse perpetrated, planned and engineered by the policies of establishment. And, the children of the Soil leave, and Mother Sindh becomes dejected, demoralized, and depressed! And the Sons of the Soil in Sindh become extinct!

We demand immediate investigation into this very sad and sordid affair! We appeal and plead the World’s Human Rights Organisations, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and the United Nations Organisations to enquire from government officials about what is going on and why poor innocent people are being resorted to take such drastic action! The culprits who have been the cause of such a tragedy should be apprehended, tried and punished. Long Live Humanity!

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 16 July, 2011

Blood money’ frees CIA contractor Davis in Pakistan

Excerpt:

Islamabad: The Raymond Davis saga finally seemed to come to a conclusion on Wednesday after a Pakistan court acquitted the US diplomat-cum- CIA contractor as the relatives of the victims agreed to accept blood money in exchange for pardon.

American CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis has been in jail since Jan. 27 after he was arrested on the account of shooting and killing two Pakistanis. His detention was known to seriously strain the US-Pak relations.

Shortly after Additional District and Sessions Judge Yousuf Aujla indicted Davis on murder charges during in-camera proceedings at the Kot Lakhpat Jail, 18 relatives of the dead men appeared in the makeshift court and said they were willing to forgive the American if compensation was paid under the Qisas and Diyat Law.

“The relatives appeared in court and independently told the judge that they had accepted the diyat (compensation) and forgiven him,” said Rana Sanaullah, the Law Minister of Punjab province. …

… Sources said that the Saudi Arabian government played a key role in secret negotiations to arrange the “blood money” deal to settle Davis’ case, which had resulted in Pakistan-US ties plunging to a new low.

The Saudi royal family played a key role in convincing Pakistan’s radical groups and religious hardliners to agree to the deal, the sources said.

Read more : ZeeeNews

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Saudis come to Raymond’s rescue! – [More detail -BBC urdu]

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Courtesy: Dunya TV (Cross Fire with Mehar Bukhari, 16 March 2011-1)

via- Siasat.pkYou Tube