At this blog we have previously discussed the case of the Gojra report which, while commissioned and produced by the one-man tribunal of Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman and submitted to the Punjab government in October 2009, has yet to be made public. It may be remembered that the Gojra report recommended an immediate review and amendment of the blasphemy laws in the Pakistan Penal Code. However the exact nature and scope of its recommendations remain hidden to the public.
In the meantime (between the Gojra riots and the present), there have been many incidents in which the members of minority communities have been subjected to religious persecution.
In 2009 alone, according to this report by HRCP, more than 41 complaints of blasphemy were reported. Here is just a small snapshot of the incidents that have occurred after the Gojra riots that have gone largely unnoticed in Pakistan’s mainstream media:
– In August 2009 in Lahore a factory owner and two others were killed by factory workers after an accusation of blasphemy
– In September 2009, a Christian Church in Sialkot district was set on fire after an accusation of blasphemy occurred.
– In September 2009, a young Christian man Fanish Masih was arrested on an accusation of blasphemy and died under mysterious circumstances while in custody
Now a fresh tribunal has been formed by Government of Punjab to investigate the killing of the two Christian brothers Rashid Emmanuel and Sajjad Emmanuel outside a courthouse in Faisalabad this month. The one-member tribunal of Justice Muhammad Yusuf of Labour Court 4 will start investigations on August 2 and will submit a final report to the Punjab government within 15 days.
But the question is, will this report, too, be suppressed from the public by the Punjab Government? If so, what is the good of all these commissions and tribunals? Where is the public pressure from “civil society” to force the government to make these reports public under the freedom of information ordinance and to act on their recommendations? Can we simply dispense with this sham of ordering one tribunal after the other? All this does is provides cover for the Government of Punjab to say “look at least we are doing something”. Once the (brief) period of public attention is diverted, the government simply refuses to make the findings of the tribunal public. After the Gojra riots, the victims’ families, knowing that they would never receive justice otherwise had placed the bodies of their loved ones on the railway tracks until an FIR was filed which named the DCO and DPO as suspects. Predictably, no action has been taken following the filing of that FIR. In fact the Punjab government had to be prevented in May 2010 by the LHC from promoting the then RPO Faisalabad Ahmed Raza Tahir (against whom the Gojra tribunal had recommended taking action in October 2009) to the position of CCPO Lahore.
Blasphemy Law revisited by IA Rehman