Let’s fight it out – by Waseem Altaf

It is known to everybody that the blasphemy law, a creation of  Zia-ul-Haq, has been effectively utilized by the powerful against the weaker sections of the society, to settle property disputes, personal vendettas and inter communal rivalries. It also acts as an impetus for advancing jehadi agendas where interests of these militant outfits and our security establishment converge. It was General Zia who inserted it into the law books by combining sin and crime. And ever since it has been used to the total disadvantage of the downtrodden.

The  minorities are 5% of the total population of Pakistan, however more than 50% of the cases lodged over the years,have been against them.

Similarly, the case of Yousaf Kazab, a Muslim by faith,  clearly demonstrates how  Zia Shahid of daily “Khabrain” implicated him in a blasphemy case to grab his property. Likewise the murder of  Judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti proves the extent of danger to the lives of all those who show any concession to the accused.

Najma holds a family picture with sister-in-law of Asia Bibi November 13, 2010.

The most recent example is that of Aasia Bibi who has been sentenced to death by a sessions court in Sheikhupura. While majority of those who matter in this country looked the other way, including prominent columnists and TV anchor persons, yet the response on part of the civil society,this time, has been substantial.

Najam Sethi sahab requested for a brief to hold  a full program on the issue on Monday night, and Ms Nasim Zehra took the lead in holding a talk show on Saturday night, where Mr. Salman Akram Raja, the advocate and Mrs.Tahira Abdullah boldly condemned the inhuman law. Rana Sanullah,the Punjab Law Minister, somewhat cautiously also advocated the repeal of sections 295(B) and 295(C).  . He added that it has nothing to do with religion.

However, almost at the same time Maulvi Sahibzada Fazal Karim of the Barelvi segment of Sunni Ittehad, on Karachi Airport warned that if mercy is shown towards the lady,the government would face severe consequences. He also implicated NGO’s for advancing the agenda coming from abroad. Similarly, maulvis of various brands like Sami-ul-Haq of Jamiat-ul-Ulemae Islam and the macho maulvi Ibtesam Ilahi Zaheer of Jamiat-e-Ahle-Hadees, have warned the government of a civil war, if the lady is pardoned.

The issue has also been internationalized as many foreign governmental and non-governmental organizations including human rights groups, Amnesty International and foreign media have shown grave concern and asked our Government to take cognizance of the case.

Pope Benedict the sixteenth, in his general audience on 17th of this month, held at Vatican City, has expressed his spiritual closeness with Aasia Bibi and her family and called upon the Government to release her as early as possible.

Earlier on while the Prime Minister was trying to control the gathering at Dadu, the President took notice and asked for a report on the whole incident. And while the Khadim-e-Aala of Punjab was abusing his bureaucracy and shedding tears on the wretched state of the flood affectees, preferred not to intervene in this matter.Even his leader Mian Nawaz Sharif who privately expresses his strong reservations on the law,  remained quiet due to political expediencies.

However the most courageous and commendable act in this case was shown by the Governor of Punjab Mr. Salman Taseer, his wife Amna and daughter Shehr Bano. They all not only visited and met the convict at a prison in Sheikhupura ,but also advocated her case in front of the media and preferred a mercy petition to the President on behalf of the condemned lady.

The devil unleashed by General Zia is now taking its toll. To the fanatic mindset any person even accused of blasphemy is to be eliminated as a religious obligation .Add to this the support of the deep state and the executive,the judiciary’s leaning in such cases and the silence of the majority. The combination is so lethal that anybody accused, along with his family is invariably doomed.

However every conscientious person believes that the blasphemy law is a tool of suppression and whatever is being done to the condemned is wrong.
It is now high time that the civil society
should rise to the occasion,through writings,electronic media, forwarding petitions,lobbying to get support from the parliamentarians for appropriate legislation and influencing public opinion.

It is also the responsibility of the Federal and Provincial Governments to safeguard the rights and interests of minorities in the country by enforcing the writ of the state.

And lastly, it is in our own interest. If this menace is not contained now, it would further spread and the time is not far when even those opposed to the blasphemy law would be condemned as blasphemers.

So, in any way we can, let’s fight it out!