Laws are made for protection of citizens of a country, but can fairly or unfairly be tilted towards those whom a State wants to own or disown. Here, some sections under Pakistan Criminal Code (PCC) have been formulated as anti-blasphemy laws which are clearly meant to be protective of state religion, Islam. 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings; 295-B forbids defiling the Quran; and 295-C forbids defaming Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life and defaming Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) merits death with or without a fine.
These laws, being the most misused, have worked as a shield for bigot and orthodox Muslims who really believe in a place which belongs to all Muslims and that too having same set of beliefs. Christians and Ahmadis clearly have been more affected and facing the wrath of majority in the name of blasphemy. Scores of people have been accused of this crime and on many occasions the crime did not take place the way it was publicized. Hatred for your neigbour, animosity between two families, and a general bias towards non-Muslims could trigger the idea and on this strong ground of blasphemy, it becomes easy and legitimate to take revenge. Scores of people have been victimized so far but the stunning phenomenon is that no proper mechanism has been formalized to confirm and authenticate the alleged crime. Anyone according to his convenience and will can announce that a particular person has said blasphemous words against Prophet, or defiled Quran, and the world believes him assuming that it is in the best interest of religion. Even law enforcing agencies have a clear bias in many cases and if not that they succumb to the popular pressure of majority. We must start a journey towards a destination where such laws do not exist anymore in the interests of humanity. Pakistan should repeal these laws as the governments have failed so far to stop its misuse. Rehmat Masih’s story is not different and indicates the same fate.
Below is the story:
ASIA/PAKISTAN – Yet another Catholic accused of “blasphemy”.
Faisalabad (Agenzia Fides) – “Yet another violation of human rights and another sad example of Pakistan’s ‘blasphemy’ law being misused to strike religious minority groups.” Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said this to Fides with regard to the latest case of a Catholic being accused of blasphemy.
Mr Rehmat Masih, age 73, resident in the archdiocese of Faisalabad, in the village of Jhandewall, has been reported by a local Muslim, Mr Sajid Hameed, for pronouncing blasphemous words against the Prophet Mohammed. Members of the local Catholic community, which took up the defense of the accused man, told Fides that the charge, clearly false, arose instead from interpersonal disputes over the ownership of land.
“We are confident that the accusations against Rehmat Masih will be lifted because he is innocent. We will stand by him. The Justice and Peace Commission will do everything in its power, at the legal level, and at the level of information and sensitisation, to defend the man publicly”, Peter Jacob told Fides. The secretary added: “The government of Pakistan must wake up and shoulder its responsibilities, at both the legal and the political level, and explain why this law is allowed to harass and abuse innocent Pakistani citizens. Government is sleeping with regard to the question of human rights. What is lacking is real commitment in this field, and a transparent policy of respect for human rights. This happens because the government and parliament are hostages of extremist groups”.
The international community is also called to take action: “ Last May the European Parliament passed a very positive resolution on religious freedom and human rights in Pakistan: we hope to see it implemented very soon. We ask all international institutions to help us build a better Pakistan”, Jacob concludes. According to a recent Report issued by the Pakistan Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission on the Conditions of Religious Minorities in the country, cases of the blasphemy law being misused continue at a high rate all over the country. In 2009 no less than 112 cases were registered against 57 Ahmadi, 47 Muslims and 8 Christians Altogether, since law came into force in 1987, a total number of 1,032 people have been unjustly punished.