Death the only punishment for Blasphemy

| by Xavier P. William

( December 7, 2013, Karachi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Federal Sharia Court has ordered to remove the life imprisonment from the section 295C of the Blasphemy laws and death sentence be the only punishment in 295C.

Justice Fida Hussain heading the panel heard a contempt of court petition, filed by Advocate Hashmat Habib. The Federal Sharia Court has issued orders to remove the provision of life imprisonment from the blasphemy law, stating that only death is the punishment for blasphemy under section 295 C.

In 1984 a group of conservative lawyers filed a petition at the Federal Shariat Court asking for a law against insult to Islam or the Prophet, in 1986 the blasphemy laws comprising section 295 A and 295 B were implemented as the part of the law of the state.

In 1990 under the Hadood ordinance 295C was introduced to the Blasphemy laws, in 1991 it was approved and the Law Minister Iqbal Ahmad Khan added text “death or life” as punishment for blasphemy in section 295C.

The blasphemy laws have been under debate for amending / ensuing to stop the misuse of these laws, the marginalized and the weak have been the victim of these laws. In Pakistan even being accused of blasphemy is equivalent to the sentence itself. Even the children are accused regardless of their age and mental state, we have witnessed this when an 8th grader was accused for misspelling a word in her exam, Rimsha a 11 years old girl with down syndrome was framed by a cleric under the blasphemy laws. These things need to be considered that the law clearly states that any one who deliberately dishonors a religious place or a Prophet is accountable.

In the last 30 years, incidents of extrajudicial killings of blasphemy accused have been common. Extrajudicial killings in blasphemy cases are not pursued by the victims’ families out of fear of being further victimized. Unfortunately, such killings are put under the carpet by the state and the court as it invites wrath. the first such extrajudicial killing took place in 1991 when blasphemy accused Naemat Ahmad was shot dead by some unknown persons. Later, a Muslim Farooq Sajid was beaten to death by a mob in Gujranwala. Similarly, Manzoor Masih was gunned down outside the District and Sessions Court after a hearing in 1990s. Take the case of Lahore High Court Judge, Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who was assassinated in his chambers after retirement at Lahore High Court in 1997. The killer said he targeted the judge because he was on the bench that acquitted two Christian men, Salamat and Rehmat Masih, accused in a blasphemy case.

Societies have laws in order to protect people from the actions of other people. It is clearly impossible for everybody in any society to have absolute freedom: as one person exercised that freedom, it would trample upon somebody else's freedom. Despite the fact the blasphemy laws are there the people take the law in their own hands and they decide for themselves what the punishment should be, a mentally unstable man was set ablaze outside the police station in Bahawalpur on blasphemy accusation, these violent incidents clearly challenge the writ of the law and it is clearly evident that these laws are being misused.

Life For All Pakistan a Human Rights organization in said, “The minorities – the poorest stratum of our society who had received assurances of equal treatment from the founder of the state, Quaid-e-am Muhammad Ali Jinnah – have to bear the brunt of this hatred of ourselves. When the world is outraged by what is done to the women and the minorities here, we respond with xenophobia, The Blasphemy phenomenon takes a horrible turn when a charged mob targets a specific community, locality or a group by burning their houses, looting their valuables and resorting to mass killing, there have been examples of Gojra, Sangla Hill and the most recent one in Badami Bagh, Lahore. They have not stressed to stop the misuse; this law is widely misused to settle personal vendettas and rivalries. Why is such a law being allowed to be used as a tool? How many more innocent lives will it take for the authorities to realize that it`s about time to seriously take concrete steps to ensure that the laws are implemented and justice is served.“