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




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

Aasiya blasphemy case: Field notes, petitions and a press release

The death sentence that a district court handed down to Aasiya Bibi, a poor Christian woman in Punjab, is not the first of its kind except that this is the first time a woman has been so sentenced (but not the first time one has been so accused). Since the ‘blasphemy law’ was promulgated, there have been many such convictions – that the higher courts have always over-turned. District courts have also shown sense: I remember a woman district judge in Karachi acquitting Chand Barkat, a bangle seller who had been accused by a rival). However, vigilante violence (cold-bloodedly orchestrated by extremist organisations) has claimed the lives of some 20 charged under this law or publicly accused of this ‘crime’. Continue reading

‘Kary Logar’ ain’t the issue

My article on the ‘Kerry Lugar Bill’ and the crisis Pk faces today – a slightly edited version of which was published in Dawn today as KLB is not the issue

Photo from the demonstration on Oct 11. Courtesy www.dawn.com

Photo from the demonstration on Oct 11. Courtesy http://www.dawn.com

‘Kary Logar’ ain’t the issue

Beena Sarwar

As pressure mounted in South Waziristan with the army action, and retaliatory bombings began, a demonstration in Karachi by parties that claim religion as their raison d’etre underscored some key conflicts Pakistan faces: the requirements of justice under due process of law versus tribal, extra-judicial punishments, tensions between the elected civilian government and the ‘establishment’, and conflict between a long-standing foreign policy versus new domestic compulsions.

Continue reading

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