An Article from 2009 – Misuse of Blasphemy Laws

28 Mar

The reason i’m re-posting this on my blog after 3 years is because i feel this contains very important information, which i think should be readily available to all Pakistanis. This is a major issue in Pakistan and we must work towards resolving it.

 

The Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, has assured the Pakistani nation that the culprits of violence against the Christians (refer to Gojra incident 30th of july) will be brought to justice as soon as possible. This incident brought this scribe to two conclusions;

  1. The level of religious tolerance and respect for minorities is dreadfully low in Pakistan
  2. There is lack of presence in Punjab of the PML-N government.

Pakistan was a country brought into existence with the idea that it would be secular. This never transpired. However, it was always to be a country which respected its minorities and treated them as equal citizens. As a Pakistani, till this day, i.e. 61 years after our formation, I cannot claim that my country treats its minorities as human beings. Around 96.28% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim.

Does that give us the right to treat the estimated 1.58% of Christians in our country like animals; burning them alive on the grounds that they disrespected the Quran? The Gojra incident highlights a very important realization which must be made amongst all Paksitanis; even if this group of Christians did (nauozobillah) disrespect the Quran, what right do we (the Pakistani population) have to take action against them?

After all, according to our constitution, we are equal citizens with equal rights. No one is above the law. So, why should we Muslims be exempt from this when we commit such disgusting atrocities? As a Pakistani and a Muslim, I condemn this attack, most strongly, seeing it as the act of cowards and illiterates. Action must be taken against these people immediately.

Coming to the Ahmadis in Pakistan. They are around 0.22% of the population. They are also some of the worst treated minorities in Pakistan. We often hear of Ahmadi doctors being murdered brutally and private TV channel shows declaring jehad against Ahmadis.

Between 1988 and 2005, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with offences under the blasphemy laws. Fifty percent of the people charged were non-Muslim. Twenty of those charged were murdered soon after the charge was laid.

Two Christians, both elderly men from Faisalabad, Punjab, were acquitted by the Lahore High Court in April 2009. In November 2006, the two had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. The allegation arose apparently out of a dispute over land.

On 28 January 2009, the police in Punjab arrested a labourer and four students for blasphemy. All those arrested were Amadhi. The accusation against them was that they wrote “Prophet Mohammed” on the wall of a toilet in a Sunni mosque. The senior superintendent of police investigated and reported to the Ministry of the Interior at the end of March 2009 that the accusation was baseless.

In May 2008, Punjabi police jailed Robin Sardar, a physician and a Christian, upon an accusation of blasphemy from a Muslim street-vendor who wanted to install himself in front of Sardar’s clinic.

In February 2008, Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council reminded Pakistan’s representative of the matter regarding Raja Fiaz, Muhammad Bilal, Nazar Zakir Hussain, Qazi Farooq, Muhammad Rafique, Muhammad Saddique and Ghulam Hussain. According to the allegations received, the men are members of the Mehdi Foundation International (MFI), a multi-faith institution utilizing the mystical principles of Mr. Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi. They were arrested on 23 December 2005 in Wapda Town. The police confiscated posters on which Mr. Gohar Shahi was shown as “Imam Mehdi.” On 13 July 2006, the Anti-Terrorism Court No. 1 in Lahore sentenced each of these persons to five years of imprisonment, inter alia, under 295-A for having outraged others’ religious feelings.

Since 27 August 2006, the seven men have been detained in Sahiwal Jail, Punjab, where they were forced to parade naked, and were suspended from the ceiling and beaten. Their prisoners’ records are posted outside the cell, falsely indicating that they had been sentenced under 295-C. For this reason, they are constantly threatened and intimidated by prison staff as well as by other detainees. One MFI member was targeted by several other inmates and sexually assaulted. Subsequently, other staff members sexually abused him and pushed burning cigarette butts in his anus, which left scars that can still be seen.

In April 2007, upon a charge of blasphemy, the police in Toba Tek Singh jailed five Christians: Salamat Masih, his son Rashid, and their relatives Ishfaq, Saba, and Dao Masih. The allegation against the Christians was that they desecrated pieces of paper that bore Prophet Mohammed’s name. On 25 January 2009, the authorities released the Christians, and Muslim clerics agreed to issue a fatwa which declared that the accusation of blasphemy was unsound.

On 28 October 2007, the police arrested Muhammad Imran of Faisalabad under 295-B for allegedly setting fire to a Quran. For three days, the police kept Imran in a torture-cell where they tortured him. Then the police sent him to a jail where other inmates attacked him. His jailers put Imran into solitary confinement without attending to his injuries. On 14 April 2009, an Additional Sessions judge released Imran.

On 11 August 2005, Judge Arshad Noor Khan of the Anti-Terrorist Court found Younus Shaikh guilty of defiling a copy of the Quran, outraging religious feelings, and propagating religious hatred among society. Shaikh’s conviction occurred because he wrote a book: “Shaitan Maulvi” (Satanic Cleric). The book said stoning to death (Rajam) as a punishment for adultery was not mentioned in the Quran. The book said also that four historical Imams (religious leaders) were Jews. The judge imposed upon Shaikh a fine of 100,000 rupees, and sentenced him to spend his life in jail.

On 20 November 2003, the police arrested Anwar Masih, a day labourer, a Christian, a married father of four (at that time), a resident of Shahdara, a town next to Lahore. The police charged Masih under 295-B. The charge arose out of an encounter that Masih had with a neighbour who had grown a beard. The neighbor disclosed that he had converted from Christianity to Islam. Masih and the neighbour exchanged harsh words. The neighbour reported to the police that Masih had insulted Prophet Mohammed. The Lahore High Court acquitted Masih on 24 December 2004. In August 2005, Masih took a job in a factory. In November 2007, he lost the job when his employer was threatened for employing a “blasphemer.” Masih went into hiding.

In October 2000, Pakistani authorities charged Younus Shaikh, a physician, with blasphemy on account of remarks that students claimed he made during a lecture. The students alleged that, inter alia, Shaikh had said the Prophet Mohammed’s parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. A judge ordered that Shaikh pay a fine of 100,000 rupees, and that he be hanged. On 20 November 2003, a court retried the matter and acquitted Shaikh, who fled Pakistan for Europe soon thereafter.

In 2000, a court sentenced Naseem Ghani and Mohammed Shafiq to seven years imprisonment upon allegations that they had burned a Quran. The police arrested Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian bricklayer, for blasphemy on 14 October 1996, and jailed him for violation of 295-C. Muhammad Akram, a Muslim neighbor to Masih, complained to the police that Masih had said Christianity was right, and Masih had recommended that Akram read Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

The same day Masih was arrested, Muslim villagers forced the entire Christian population of Masih’s village (fourteen families) to leave it. Masih’s family had made application under a government program that gave housing plots to landless people. Local landlords resented Masih’s application because the landlords had been able to oblige landless Christians to work in the fields in exchange for a place to live. Masih’s application gave him a way out of his subservience to the landlords.

Upon Masih’s arrest, the authorities gave Masih’s plot to Akram. Akram shot and injured Masih in the halls of the Session Court at Sahiwal on 6 November 1997. Four assailants attacked Masih in jail. The authorities took no action against Akram or against the other assailants. On 20 April 1998, Judge Abdul Khan sentenced Masih to death and levied a fine of 100,000 rupees. Two judges of the Lahore High Court heard Masih’s appeal on 24 July 2001. Shortly thereafter, the judges affirmed the judgment of the trial court. On 16 August 2002, the Supreme Court of Pakistan set aside the judgment of the trial court. The Supreme Court noted Akram’s acquisition of Masih’s property, and concluded the case had been fabricated for personal gain. The court also noted other breaches in the law of due process.

Judge Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti was assassinated on 19 October 1997 in his Lahore office after acquitting two people who were accused of blasphemy. Riaz Ahmad, his son, and two nephews (Basharat Ahmad, Qamar Ahmad and Mushtaq Ahmad), all Ahmadis, were arrested and jailed on 21 November 1993. They were detained for having “said something derogatory.” Local people in Piplan, Mianwali District, said that rivalry over Ahmad’s position as village headman was the real motivation for the complaint against him. The Sessions Court rejected the bail applications of the accused. The Supreme Court granted bail in December 1997.

In February 1993, Anwar Masih, a Christian from Samundri in Punjab, went to jail upon a Muslim shopkeeper’s allegation that, during an argument over money, Masih had insulted the Prophet Mohammed.  In November 1992, Gul Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death after having remarked to his neighbor Mohammad Sajjad, a Muslim, he had read “that Mohammed had 11 wives, including a minor.”

All this information goes to further strengthen my case; the blasphemy laws in Pakistan should be amended. The amendments should comprise of ensuring that written proof be given to convict someone of having committed these acts as the word of a few witnesses is not sufficient and could be misused.

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7 Responses to “An Article from 2009 – Misuse of Blasphemy Laws”

  1. Syed Owais Mukhtar June 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    Muslims extremist are too innocent that they always accept that they actually did it. Grow up

  2. Sheenmeem July 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Don’t be act like anti Islamic..
    Live your life as you are..
    Never ever try to misguide muslim’s throw above mentioned stories.
    What you know about Islamic principles ?
    SHAME on you.

    • Ali Murtaza September 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      We are proud nation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and will InshaAllah live a life that is according to islamic injunctions. Your wicked thoughts are being fed with evil and you cannot understand the true meaning of Islam and The respect for Muhammad (PBUH)

  3. Zeeshan September 22, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    Good decision you should join apml.

  4. waqar July 25, 2015 at 12:51 am #

    It’s a nicely written piece of information. But I am still confused about the idea of amending witness of few with provision of written proves. We do need to amend this law for minority protection but we need to have a legally sound base for that very purpose as well. Instances in which written proves are not available then we will have to revert back to conventional system of witness words,which eventually will not produce a universal solution. This law has to be amended to avoid extrajudicial killing of minorities and its effective implementation to stop blasphemy as well. For that reaching a middle ground a question to ponder upon! And I am unable to have a satisfactory way to meet that middle/moderate point.

    • waqar karim July 25, 2015 at 12:53 am #

      Proofs *

  5. tao585 December 3, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    The question is how Muslims treated such cases in early periods of Islam. Our reverence seems shallow when we use interest bearing bank accounts and credit cards and thousand other non-Islamic acts

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