Politicizing blasphemy law: who is behind Namoos e Risalat movement?

“Many believe the two parties are acting at the behest of the security establishment to undermine the country’s political system.”, BBC

As per the news published in various news papers Pakistan Peoples Party led government appeases religious parties on blasphemy law.

In a move to appease religious parties, the government told the National Assembly on Wednesday it had no mind to change the controversial anti-blasphemy law often seen misused against members of minority communities, but appeared calm against political theatrics of some volatile allies. Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted the house proceedings to make a policy statement “with full responsibility” that the “government has no intention to repeal the anti-blasphemy law and to disown a private bill of a PPP member proposing changes in the Zia-era law to abolish a mandatory death sentence against a convict provided by it and to guard against miscarriage of justice. The government assurance came ahead of what has been described as a countrywide “shutter down strike” called for Friday by a religious grouping seeking to protect the dignity of the holy prophet Mohammad (PBUH), or “namoos-i-risalat”.

“The government regards safeguarding ‘namoos-i-risalat’ as its responsibility and believes in it”, the minister said and, in a reference to the daft submitted by former information minister Sherry Rehman but yet to come before the house, added: “If someone has brought a private bill, it has nothing to do with the government.” Mr Shah also assured the house that the government would not allow any wrong done to minorities, which have often complained of false accusations made against their members under a law enforced by former military dictator Gen Mohammad Zia-u-Haq as part of his controversial campaign to Islamise the Pakistani society.

Although it’s very disappointing news and frustrating development and when political parties and govt’s change their stated positions, they surly deserve criticism. Yet we should not ignore the role of other political powers and other pressure groups.
Here, I also want to clarify that the purpose of this post is not to defend govt’s recent U turn on the blasphemy law or explain it’s position on this issue. However, the purpose of this post is to re-examine the whole episode again and scrutinize the role of [other]state’s institutions.

We have been following the Asia Bibi’s case as close as we could since it started appearing in the International media. And LUBP is the only blog that has been continously writing on this particular case as well as against the blasphemy laws and highlighting events of religious persecution. Due to our bold stance against terrorism and extremism we have been continuously receiving threats and abuses from the extremist forces some of them threatening our very lives. Here are some extremely hateful, violent and life threatening comments extremists have made toward Aasia Bibi at LUBP’s Articles. as well as some extremly encouraging daring comments liberals have made toward Aasia Bibi at LUBP’s articles.

Related articles that indicate us that things are moving in right direction and situation is quite favorable for amendment:

And it’s our observation and assessment from what we have read in the media and what we have written and analyzed. It’s also worth remembering that at that point political situation seemed favourable for the amendment of the controversial law.

So what went wrong and who is at fault? and how situation changed drastically. Is the government solely responsible for that what were other state institutions role and what character did they play in this whole case? Let’s quick rewind and recall the whole case and try to examine & analyze the reasons and sequence of events that led to the present crises.

The blasphemy law received once again international attention and returned to the spotlight in November when the death sentence imposed upon Aasia has provoked a renewed debate about amending the blasphemy law to stop its misuse. The charged debates on television channels, online and print media about amending the blasphemy law reveal how contentious and controversial the laws have become. Almost every Pakistani directly or indirectly is affected by this ongoing situation.

The establishment uses it’s corporately controlled ‘Media’ wing to smear government:

Lamentably, all the top Media Conglomerates are owned and manned by Punjab and Karachi based individuals and media is a trustworthy but non permanent member of our establishment. Journalism is a gentleman’s profession, but here in Pakistan, newly born liberalized media seems to be working up mob hysteria especially against Non Muslims and the democratically elected parliament. Media and its self-puritan anchors are continuously encouraging a pseudo-religious approach to life, society & politics -and its hostile propaganda against Non Muslims, which is very much suitable for extremist aberrations.

Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti human anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians -they are infect inciting hatred and violence among the country’s citizens and especially against those having different or ‘unpopular’ views and thoughts.

The media spotlights are intensely focused on this issue and majority of the writers of English papers condemned these laws and asked unanimously for their removal or at least some amendments to make them less affective. But the problems did start about the time when leading ‘political actors’ initiate smear campaign against it, they advanced in guard and apologia of the blasphemy laws. In the first instance Hamid Mir’s article in the Daily Jang where he cleverly articulated a strong defense for these laws by ringing dead chords of their history, their purpose and their ‘significance’ in our constitution. He sketched an innocent picture of these laws, criticized Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti for speaking against them and urged everyone not to ‘target’ these laws for Asia’s sake. As for the misuse of these laws, he causally brushed it aside by saying that in section 302 (death sentence for those guilty of murder) sometimes innocent people also get convicted by mistake but we obviously can’t remove them from our constitution, therefore the same also goes for the blasphemy laws.

After article he conducted talk show and showed his true colours of being a leading religious extremist anchor as he has invited two other guests of his own denomination and breed in his TV talk show about Blasphemy Laws. Justice (Rtd) Tariq Mahmood is the only voice of enlightenment, demythologization and sanity in this programme, which both other guests are finding difficult to bear.



Ms Meher Bokhari invited two senior journalists Saeed Chaudhry and Haroon Rasheed to justify that Blasphemy Law is right, and to criticize the people who are helping Asia Bibi.

Related Video:


Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s leading Urdu newspaper, also endorsed the call for Bibi’s death. It said her punishment “will be carried out in one manner or the other.”

John Bosco writes in his article, It is scandalous how Pakistani anchors and journalists have their roots with the religious parties. It has been noted they have their sympathies with them. This is absolutely antithetical agaisnt the profession of an anchor and journalist to portrait one side of the picture and creates these clerics heroes, similarly they did with Taliban, consequently Pakistan is failed to win war against terrorist in Pakistan.

· In this programme Karman Khan – the dogmatic host of the show, in his introductory remarks said:

· Once again this has been revealed that Pakistanis are tightened with the rope of Islam.

· All over Pakistan from Karachi to Khyber Pakistanis showed their solidity with Islam

· Muslims are united all over Pakistan and they won’t allow Government of Pakistan to amend Blasphemy Law?

· No matter from which Islamic parties they belong their slogan is “We`ll sacrifice our lives we`ll save the sanctity of the Prophet (peace be upon him)”. They are united under the flag of the sanctity of the Prophet (peace be upon him)”.

Legal Tools for the Establishment:

A free and independent judiciary is indispensable for parliamentary democracy to work within the limits of law and constitution. Unfortunately, the judiciary has with rare exceptions been facilitating the military regime.

The acceptance of the doctrine of necessity has on critical occasions undermined the judiciary from working as the guardian of the constitution and protector of the sovereignty of the parliament. In Pakistan, Judiciary is identified as power broker. It has been facilitator under the cover of the Law of Necessity. Contrary to public perception, the current so called independent judiciary is only very friendly to establishment.

Lahore High Court (LHC) called for an account from federal and provincial governments in matter relating the release of Aasia Bibi under Presidential order. The LHC issued stay order on release of Aasia Bibi under Presidential order.

Asma Jahangir, human rights activist and chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), criticised the courts restraining order.

“The president is yet to grant pardon. So there was no need for such an order,” she said, adding that “the court should not take such populist stance”.

A spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the statement of the Lahore High Court, claiming the prerogative and powers of the President. President Zardari through his spokesman said that the High Court has no jurisdiction over his duties and, under Article 45 of the Constitution, the President may at any time decide to grant a pardon. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, with a statement of “its motion” (ie, of their own initiative) has confirmed this interpretation, noting that only the Supreme Court may give binding instructions to the Government or the President.

Efforts for the reunification of Muttahida Majlis-e-Aml (MMA):

On Dec. 3 the imam of Peshawar’s oldest mosque, Maluna Yousaf Qureshi, offered a 500,000 rupee (about $5,800) reward to anyone who killed the Asia Bibi if the court failed to execute her.

A radical alliance – which includes Pakistan Muslim Leagues, religious political parties allied with banned militant groups – has called a large mass national demonstration entitled Namos-e-risalat, that is, defending the honour of the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) on 24 December, after Friday prayers, to say “no” to the release of Asia Bibi and any changes to the blasphemy law.

Hafiz Saeed surfaces in Islamabad:

Jamaat Ud-Dawa chief made his first public appearance in Islamabad in over two years at a meeting of leaders of key religious parties and hardliners opposed to changes in the countrys controversial blasphemy law.
JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed attended the meeting. Addressing the gathering, Saeed stressed the need for a well-organised media campaign in favour of the blasphemy law.

He shared the stage with Ch Shujaat Hussain, Ijaz-ul-Haq and PML-N’s representative Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

Religious Right as Establishment’s principal civilian collaborators.
The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) would be revived within a few weeks as the main hurdle in the revival of the nine religious parties’ alliance, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazle (JUI-F)’s being a part of the Pakistan People’s Party-led government, has been removed after JUI-F quitted the ruling coalition, parties’ sources say.

A JUI-F office-bearer on condition of anonymity told Daily Times that all the parties who were part of MMA including Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Samiaullah (JUI-S) and others, had contacted the party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for revival of the MMA.

With the far right Islamic parties crippling the country with strikes and threats, weakness in the central government does not give the PPP led govt much room to amend the controversial law.

Understanding the motives behind smear campaign launched against PPP led government:

A lawmaker from the ruling PPP has pointed a finger at the country’s security establishment for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as the government promised it will make public an investigation report into the high-profile murder.
“Those who prepared mujahideen for the sake of American dollars and then nurtured another generation of terrorists for more dollars are behind her (Bhutto) murder,” said MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal in the National Assembly.

The above statement clearly illustrates the relationship between establishment and PPP, there is no doubt that the establishment never liked the PPP Government, they always did some efforts to block PPP to come to power and overthrow it’s govt, this reality has again assumed significance in recent days as establishment has initiated preliminary steps to remove the fourth PPP Government from Power. The establishment thinks that Pakistan Peoples Party and it’s government is threat to the hegemony and control they enjoy over the country and it’s resources. Also worrying them is the possibility that if this government completes tenure, a precedent would be set for a civilian government should complete its term.

Obviously there is a long term planning, as has been pointed out above, but there are also immediate gains from the recent move, i.e US court summons ISI chief in Mumbai terror case, and now Pakistan’s government says it will fight a US lawsuit. The American media has been reporting that Pakistan is not willing to take the fight to North Waziristan insinuating that there is a divergence of interests. And Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will take decision on North Waziristan operation. The establishment has also started efforts for the reunification of Muttahida Majlis-e-Aml (MMA). And now MMA who had almost vanished into history is again in the news.

Federal Law Minister Babar Awan told reporters that Friday’s strike was simply the latest attempt to revive a once powerful alliance of religious parties.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal emerged as the third largest vote-winner in the 2002 elections held by the regime of President Pervez Musharraf, but the grouping had broken apart by the time of polls two years ago. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) walks out of coalition in center.

Thanks to the Asia Bibi case, that once again provided probably the best opportunity to the establishment to play their cards once again. Now once again establishment is using it’s old apparatus and device of religion like they did in the past and especially against Shaheed Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. So after analyzing the whole case once again we can safely say that PPP is trying to appease the powerful establishment rather than it’s junior partner religious right.



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