Is Pakistan governed and controlled by religious forces? The answer is yes. No matter who is the incharge of the government, be a government run by secular leaning Pakistan Peoples Party, be a government comprised of middle class business people such as Pakistan Muslim League or be an army dictatorship.
The Government of Pakistan Peoples Party seems to challenge the Blasphemy Law but her very powerful man, Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, shot dead by his bodyguard on Tuesday afternoon in Islamabad. Salmaan Taseer happened to show his sympathies for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, who sentenced to death by hanging on defiling Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He even met her in the jail in November 2010 and showed his sympathy to her and called Blasphemy Law a “Black Law”. The guard claims that he killed the Governor because of his stance against the Law.
The draconian law ranges punishments from fine, imprisonment and death penalties on outraging religious feelings, defiling the Quran and defaming Prophet Muhammad. Defiling the Quran may lead one to imprisonment for life and by involving someone with insulting Prophet Muhammad accusation may lead the person into a death sentence.
That’s what happened with Asia Bibi in Pakistan.
According to the news from Pakistan, some of the co-worker women urged Asia to forsake Christianity and convert to Islam. In reply, Asia asked what Muhammad had done for them whereas Jesus died on the cross for humanity’s sins. The women took her statement as an insulting remark for Prophet Muhammad and went to their local Imam. The cleric arranged a mob. They attacked her home. She and her family were beaten by the mob until Police rescued them. In early November 2010, a lower court sentenced her death by hanging.
On the last day of 2010, the country was paralyzed by a strike staged by nation’s religious political parties. Those religious groups were pressing the government to not amend Blasphemy Law, which is a main cause to marginalizing and persecuting minorities in the country.
The religious parties have taken the task in their hands since Asia got arrested in June 2009 on accusations of insulting Prophet Muhammad. They started pressurizing the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, political parties, media and public to not intervene Blasphemy Law.
So far, those Islamic forces seem very successful in terms of attaining their goal. None of the state institutions dares to challenge them. Not even the famous Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhary, who was installed on his position with the help of a huge internal and international campaign against former President Musharraf’s order to remove him. Yet he has not bothered to notice the hindrance of sharia courts that are the source of human rights violation and inhumane parallel Sharia legal system.
A day before Islamic parties staged a shutter down strike, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah appealed to religio-political parties to call off the strike and declared that the government was not bringing any bill to amend the blasphemy law.
On the other hand, Maulana Abdul Raheem Mazhari, a cleric from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party said while addressing to the protestors, “This government is planning to change the blasphemy law under foreign pressure but Muslims of this country will never allow it to do so.”
A brave lady member parliament, Sherry Rehman, from the ruling party tabled a bill to amend the law last month but her government turned it down out of the fears that it would not gain enough support as well as it may lose its political grounds.
The situation invalidates those claims that religio-political parties in Pakistan do not secure more than ten percent votes during general elections. If this is the case then why and how those Islamic forces dominate the decision powers in all arenas of government affairs. The answer is simple. Two major fractions of Pakistan Muslim League Party possess 140 seats out of 342 seats in the National Assembly. Both political groups are backed by Islamist voters. Even 127 seats of secular ruling party, Pakistan Peoples Party, are backed by a good number of religious votes. Religious political party, Mutthida Majlis-e-Amal, itself got 8 seats in the parliament. 19 independent members are pro-Islamists.
So the statistics clearly reveal the reasons of Islamacism rise in the country and bleak hope to counter prevailing inhumane laws such as Blasphemy Law.
Tahir Aslam Gora, is a Pakistani-Canadian author and journalist.