Pakistanis against terrorism: global protest vigils #ReclaimYourMosque

Pakistanis against terrorism: Shehroz Hussain speaking at the global protest vigil on Jan 16, in Boston

Pakistanis against terrorism: Shehroz Hussain speaking at the global protest vigil on Jan 16, in Boston

Shehroz Hussain was a foreign student from Pakistan, a freshman at college in the USA, when Taliban or their affiliated groups shot dead his father, Dr Riaz Hussain Shah, in front of his clinic in Peshawar in January, 2013. “In August 2012, as I stood at the airport to say goodbye to my family, I did not know I would never see one person again,” said Shehroz, speaking at a protest vigil last Friday in Boston’s historic Copley Square. “That person was the one with the most tears. He cried so much that relatives joked with him. I will never forget that night when I was woken up in the middle of the night on 9th January, 2013, to the sound of my crying brother on the phone: ‘Baba ko Maar Diya‘. They have killed Baba.”  Continue reading

Pakistan needs #ruleoflaw. Arrest and punish those who murder and those who incite violence

Shama Shehzad and daughter

Shama and Shehzad with one of their daughters, in front of a tropical backdrop. How dare they aspire for a better life?

Update: For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the state has become the plaintiff in a case involving murder due to alleged blasphemy. Let this be the start of a new era where no one dare attack or kill anyone on such a pretext again. Let the rule of law prevail, and religion not be used to cover up heinous crimes.

The vicious cycle continues in the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. It will not end unless the ‘takfiri’ (declaring someone a non-Muslim) ideology and justifying murder for alleged ‘blasphemy’ are not curbed. Once again a violent mob incited by calls from mosque pulpits has killed on the basis of such allegations. Once again the motive was not ‘religious’ but financial (as often happens). Rule of law MUST be imposed and the culprits caught, charged, tried and punished. Enough of this culture of impunity for crimes committed in the name of religion. This time it was a poor young couple – read Asif Aqeel’s comprehensive account of Shama and Shehzad, brick-kiln workers, lynched after being accused of ‘desecrated’ pages of the Quran (she was pregnant, they leave behind four children including a baby). Fifty people have been arrested. The next day, in another city, a policeman axed to death a man brought into custody after being arrested for a brawl – his justification: the man had been committed “blasphemy”. The policeman has been arrested. Below: Society for Secular Pakistan’s demand that  clerics involved in hate speech be arrested and punished for inciting religious feeling.

The cycle will continue because no one is ever punished for either false allegations, or for their involvement in the criminal act of extra-judicial murder, although laws exist against both. The ‘blasphemy’ laws of Pakistan are not divinely ordained. These are man-made laws, imposed on Pakistan by a military dictator. Gen Ziaul Haq added various clauses to the original Article 295 of the British law (shared by India and Bangladesh) that dealt with injuring religious sentiment. While criminalising other aspects of ‘injuring religious sentiment’, the critical words ‘malicious intent’ were quietly dropped. ‘Intent’ or ‘neeyat‘ is crucial when someone is accused of such crimes. If the intent was not to defile or injure religious sentiments, there is no case. It’s time to openly debate these issues and stop this senseless violence. Even if someone burnt some pages of the Quran, that is not grounds to kill them.  Continue reading

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