On Babar Awan’s statement on the blasphemy law

Ansar Abbasi and various of his friends and followers in Pakistn’s mainstream and alternative media have recently mentioned Babar Awan’s statement on the blasphemy law. According to the original article by Ansar Abbasi published in The News, the statement was made to “a senior member of jang group”. Therefore, there are some serious doubts about the veracity of this news item.

We have previously criticized Babar Awan, and are happy to do so again, only if the news came from a reliable source, which in the current instance, is not the case. Therfore, we suggest that those who are building their case against Awan on a statement by Ansar Abbasi should pause and reflect.

Having said that we express our full support to the proposed bill (co-drafted by Sherry Rehman) to amend the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Here is an excellent analysis of Ansar Abbasi’s column by Pakistan Media Watch.

Cross-posted from Pakistan Media Watch

Blasphemy and Opportunism
Ansar Abbasi’s column of 26 November is a curious piece of work. He begins by reporting some statements of Law Minister Babar Awan about repeal of the blasphemy law. According to Ansar Abbasi, the esteemed minister has said that he opposed repeal of the law and that no one should think of repealing it while he is in office.

Abbasi then observes that this is a difference in opinion between Babar Awan and Salmaan Taseer, the latter favouring release of Asia Masih – the Christian woman who was recently sentenced under the controversial law. Because these two politicians of the same political party disagree on the issue, Ansar Abbasi claims that “it shows serious cracks within the ruling elite about its policy on the blasphemy law.”

This was the first item that raised my eyebrows. Actually, two officials having a disagreement on an issue is quite common, is it not? Especially when these two men are not even part of the same government – Babar Awan is a federal minister and Salmaan Taseer is a provincial governor – how is it some evidence of cracks within ‘the ruling elite’? And who exactly does Abbasi mean when he says ‘ruling elite’? Surely Mian Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain must be considered members of the ‘ruling elite’ and they disagree with President Zardari and each other seemingly every day! It seems that Ansar Abbasi has thrown in this bit of his opinion in order to take a swipe at the governing political party and not due to any substance.

This possibility is made even more probable once the reader continues through the final paragraphs of Ansar Abbasi’s column. Here, he deviates from the topic of Babar Awan’s statements and begins listing a series of accusations against the minister as if to soil his name only. Ansar Abbasi mentions Harris Steel Mill case and Monticello University, neither of which have anything to do with the blasphemy law. He then goes on to say, “Babar Awan is also generally believed as the man responsible for the government’s confrontational mode with the judiciary.” Really? This is ‘generally believed’? And what evidence does Ansar Abbasi base this claim on? Has he done some polling of the nation? And even if it were true, what would it have to do with the blasphemy law? Perhaps this is only another instance of Ansar Abbasi being both source and reporter.

The statements of a minister on a controversial law such as the blasphemy laws adopted under General Zia are important news items to be reported. The people should be aware of what their government officials are saying on important topics. But Ansar Abbasi’s practise of infusing his own opinions and adding paragraphs about unrelated scandals reeks of political opportunism, not journalism. Please, Mr Ansar Abbasi, stick to the facts.

One response to “On Babar Awan’s statement on the blasphemy law”

  1. Babar Awan says no one can change blasphemy law

    Friday, November 26, 2010
    By Ansar Abbasi

    ISLAMABAD: Law Minister Babar Awan has categorically said that no one should think of repealing the blasphemy law. “In my presence as the Law Minister, no one should think of finishing this law,” he said while declaring himself to be a “Shaheen” (eagle). He was talking to a senior member of the Jang Group on Thursday.

    The minister came out with these unequivocal remarks in the wake of the latest media debate over the blasphemy laws, which started once again by the recent award of a death sentence to a Christian woman on blasphemy charges.
    The categorical stance by Minister Awan, arguably one of the closest aides of President Zardari and one with a role in many controversies, is in direct contradiction to that taken by Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who while being critical of the same law is all out to secure the release of Aasia Masih, sentenced to death by a district and sessions court of Nankana Sahib in the Punjab. Taseer has already declared that the convict was innocent and according to observers his view is shared by many commentators who in a majority of cases may not even have gone through the details of the evidence and judgment.

    While appreciating the comment that any effort to amend or repeal the blasphemy law would lead to chaos, the Babar Awan emphasised that in his presence as law minister no one would be allowed to change or repeal the law.

    “In order to remove ambiguity pl (please) also write 2moro (tomorrow) that I told U (The Jang Group) (that) in my presence as Law Minister no one should think of finishing this law,” this is what the law minister precisely said in his written statement. On this, the law minister was asked if he should be quoted, he said, “Sure.” Babar Awan added that he was servant of servants of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

    He said, “I’m khadim of khadmaan-e-Rasool.” He prayed that candle of ishq-e-Rasool (love for Prophet (PBUH)) is lit in every heart. The law minister, instead, said that all religious nobles must be respected in order to save world from crisis like the publication of caricature.
    It is not clear if the law minister has the blessings of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is under pressure to pardon the convict Aasia Masih but it shows serious cracks within the ruling elite about its policy on the blasphemy law.

    Babar Awan claims to be a religious scholar; he gives lectures on Islam but at the time faces serious accusation of corruption in the Harris Steel Mill case of Bank of Punjab scandal. Additionally, he continues to claim to be a PhD and uses the prefix of Dr with his name despite the fact that the Monticello University, which awarded him the fake degree, has already been declared unauthorized both by the American and Pakistani authorities to have been entitled to issue such a degree at any stage.

    Babar Awan is also generally believed as the man responsible for the government’s confrontational mode with the judiciary. All controversies notwithstanding, on the issue of blasphemy laws he has opted to detach himself from all those who are demanding the repeal of these laws.