Overcoming ‘blasphemy law’ hype

Transporters have endorsed religious parties’ nation-wide strike Dec 31 and there is huge pressure on the Pakistan government to make no changes to the controversial ‘blasphemy laws’. I believe the government wants to make the changes (though there are some within it who don’t) that all progressive Pakistanis want  but is up against the wall; it is weakened and attacked on all sides. The ‘religious right’ has been organising massive demonstrations (they may not win at the polls but they have street power), and there is a country-wide shutters down strike tomorrow.

We have to take it one step at a time. First work together to stop the abuse – whether it’s through procedural changes or amendment to the law (and there are many among the religious right who agree); ensure enforcement of law and order any way we can (ie not allow vigilante action & not allow those involved with it to go scot free).

Meanwhile, prepare the ground and keep working towards the goal of repeal or at least substantive amendments that will now allow injustice. There’s a demo in Islamabad today, a seminar in Karachi. Another seminar in Karachi is planned as well as a demo in the second week of Jan, 2011. It is a long term struggle, there are no overnight solutions. Governmentt doesn’t have a magic wand it can wave. It may take years but it will happen one day, if there is a sustained struggle and the political process continues.

Strategising to counter ‘blasphemy law’ hype

We had a good meeting yesterday in Karachi, convened by the newly formed Citizens for Democracy, to strategise about developing a long-term strategy to counter the ‘blasphemy law’ hype that has been created in Pakistan.

Some press reports this morning that used the info we sent them.

1. The News – lead story on City page today by Shahid Husain – ‘Tough struggle needed to reform blasphemy law

2. Express Tribune: ‘Citizens for Democracy’ alliance formed to amend blasphemy laws

3. Daily Times used the info like a press statement: Citizens For Democracy meet at PMA House

Email sent to Citizens for Democracy e-group about the meeting yesterday: Continue reading

Asma Jahangir: setting the record straight re: SCBA ‘resolution’

asma-lawAsma Jahangi has denied reports published in several papers today that the SCBA passed a ‘resolution’ condemning any efforts to discuss, debate or change the ‘blasphemy law’ (Lawyers to lawmakers: Supreme Court Bar wants no changes to blasphemy laws)

This is to deny that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) in its second executive committee meeting held on 18 December 2010 unanimously passed any resolution regarding either section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code itself or any case related to it. The facts are that a resolution to that effect was presented by a member of the executive committee but only apportion of it was passed unanimously, which paid reverence and commitment to honour and respect the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), while the rest of the resolution regarding 295 C, the case of Aasia Bibi and its consequences was deferred with consensus. The Supreme Court Bar Association regrets the attempt made by one of its executive members to mislead the press and the public. The SCBA is a responsible body and its resolutions will be fully debated before being passed especially unanimously.

From Asma Jahangir
Dated 19 December 2010




Sherry Rehman’s Proposed Bill to amend Offences Relating to Religion

Please read advocate Asad Jamal’s article ‘Some called-for changes‘, published in The News on Sunday, Dec 12, 2010, commenting on Sherry Rehman’s bill seeking amendments to blasphemy laws Pakistan. Below, his summary of the proposed bill in tabular form making it easier to understand:

Proposed amendments to punishments under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC)

Section Offence Existing punishment Proposed punishment
295-A Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of holy personage— punishable with Imprisonment of either description up to ten years or with fine or with both Imprisonment of either description up to two years or with fine or with both
295-B Difiling of copy of Holy Quran Imprisonment for life Imprisonment of either description for 5 years or fine or both
295-C Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of the Holy Prophet Death or life imprisonment[1] and fine Imprisonment of either description for 10 years, or with fine, or both

Proposed addition of words to blasphemy provisions in PPC. Continue reading

PPC provisions against those inciting violence, hatred, murder

The mindset promoted by the ‘blasphemy’ laws is again highlighted by the recent case of a doctor in Hyderabad arrested for ‘blasphemy’ because he threw the visiting card of a medical representative (Pfizer employee) named Mohammad Faizan into the dustbin.

I have been in correspondence with Asad Jamal, Advocate Lahore High Court, on possible action against those who make false accusations of blasphemy and incite to murder or violence — we were specifically discussing the Maulana who announced a reward of five lakh rupees for killing  Aasiya Noreen, the Christian woman sentenced by a lower court for blasphemy, whose case is going into appeal before the Lahore High Court. (Asad reminded me that in 1995, a similar ‘reward’ (it was then a million rupees, the value has obviously gone down for such murders, given that people are willing to commit them for free) had been offered for killing the minor Salamat Masih. The Lahore High Court acquitted Salamat and his two co-accused but Manzoor Masih, a co-accused in that case, was shot dead outside the court). He writes: Continue reading


Courtesy: Avaaz.org

An appeal from Avaaz.org that I’m re-producing in full (followed by some links) because it’s not easy to find on their website, although the call to sign their campaign is on the front page:

Dear friends,

The massive campaign of intimidation against WikiLeaks is sending a chill through free press advocates everywhere.

Legal experts say WikiLeaks has likely broken no laws. Yet top US politicians have called it a terrorist group and commentators have urged assassination of its staff. The organization has come under massive government and corporate attack, but WikiLeaks is only publishing information provided by a whistleblower. And it has partnered with the world’s leading newspapers (NYT, Guardian, Spiegel etc) to carefully vet the information it publishes. >

Brief update; my Secularism and ‘Blasphemy’ articles & others

Pix from Take Back the Tech at T2F. Courtesy: Newsline

I posted this to my yahoogroup today, along with a note from Avaaz on taking action against the Wikileaks crackdown (posting that separately)

Links to some of my recent articles, including about the ‘blasphemy law’ and secularism in Pakistan.

A brief update from me: I recently showed the film on DSF (Democratic Students Federation) that Sharjil and I made to a rapt audience in Islamabad at Kuch Khaas, the wonderful space set up by my old friend Poppy (Shayan Afzal Khan) – they hold film screenings, seminars, book launches; hold classes in dance, music etc (with a percentage of the admissions being reserved for underprivileged children who attend on scholarships).

My Mukhtiar Mai film was part of a couple of events held to commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It was screened at the `No Honour in Killing‘ exhibition curated by Niilofur Farrukh now in Karachi at V.M. Art Gallery till Dec 20th (has been to other cities including Larkana and Jamshoro). It was also part of the Take Back the Tech event linked to 16 Days, at a discussion (Newsline report here) held at The Second Floor in Karachi.

Below, links to my recent articles & others on the ‘blasphemy laws’ and on secularism

BLASPHEMY in Pakistan: time to repeal a flawed law – my OpEd in Common Ground News Service

Also see the other articles on the blasphemy law in Pakistan that I compiled at this link

SECULARISM PAKISTAN: My article “Secularism – Not a dirty word‘ for The News on Sunday’s series on the issue. Shorter version for Hard News, India – my monthly column Personal Political ‘Deep down in our hearts…

Also see the other articles in that series, compiled at this link.


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