The blasphemy law in Pakistan has come under severe criticism in the recent past, and Western governments have taken up the issue with the government of Pakistan, drawing their attention to the violation of human rights that take place.
The application of the blasphemy law in Pakistan is a very difficult issue because of the unstable state of the country. The country is supposed to be a democracy, but unfortunately its entire infrastructure of government and public life at all levels is riddled with massive corruption. It is a well-known fact in Pakistan that the police, the judiciary, the civil service and the politicians, including government ministers and the president of the country, are corrupt. The country has become lawless because there are almost daily incidents of murder and bombings, and the state of war that exists on its borders with Afghanistan has had serious repercussions in terms of the eruption of unrest and violence in most parts of the country. Pakistan’s minority communities like the Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmediyas are a very small percentage of the national population, and they too suffer from the general instability that straddles the nation in a very destructive manner. The blasphemy law in Pakistan is applied indiscriminately by unscrupulous people to settle scores with these small communities who find themselves helpless. It is hard to imagine why these minorities would wish to deliberately provoke the Muslims of Pakistan, knowing the consequences of such action. However, it is possible that in altercations and heated exchanges some provocation could be caused, and they could fall victims for the harshest punishment under the blasphemy laws.
It should be remembered that Pakistan is an Islamic state, and therefore the Sharia laws could have a place in its criminal justice system. However, for these to be effectively and justly operational, Pakistan has to be a credible, stable nation; it would be a prerequisite that the massive corruption in Pakistan at all levels is expunged from its body politic, and the criminal justice system becomes fair and just towards all its citizens. This indeed would be a Herculean task, like cleaning the Augean stables. Such a situation appears to be a very distant hope in the present circumstances, and therefore in order to ensure that the minorities are not unjustly treated by its seriously flawed systems, it would be a good idea to suspend the blasphemy law until such time when Pakistan becomes a strong and truly democratic nation.
Islam is a simple, practical, logical, scientific and peaceful way of life, and whilst it prescribes some punishment for transgressions, it also has a huge amount of compassion in the acts of mercy and forgiveness, which is advocated in its teachings. It is sad that most Muslim countries are low on compassion and hard on punishment, as indeed it is in Pakistan, and this runs the risk of injustice to the less advantaged people and minorities of these countries.
Manzoor Moghal MBE JP BSc
Chairman, Muslim Forum