Offence against any religion is a crime under blasphemy law. By Nasir Saeed
20 May 2014
Recently during a court hearing of the suo motu case of the bomb blast in a Peshawar church last year, where at least 85 Christians were killed, and more than 100 were injured, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani remarked that according to the Pakistan Penal Code’s (PPC) Article 295 “offence” against any religion falls under the blasphemy law.
Chief Justice Jillani said that the apex court would “share the grievances of the minorities” and can direct establishment of a “new force” to safeguard the minorities. He also expressed his anger over non-registration of cases against those involved in setting temples ablaze in Sindh. Justice Jillani told the minorities’ representatives that due to the importance of the case the apex court would appoint amicus curiae – Munir A Malik, Khawaja Haris and Hassan Aurangzaib – who would assist the court in the matter without charging any fee. He directed the minorities’ representatives to submit a report which should indicate sections where the material has been used to abuse the minorities, and identify areas where law enforcing agencies failed to secure their life and property.
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK has welcomed the chief justice’s concern and said it must be of some comfort to the minorities, undoubtedly raising their hopes and helping to restore minorities’ faith in the courts. It is widely believed that blasphemy laws not only protect the veneration of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) Islamic personage, etc but justice Jillani has reinterpreted the law and nobody can deviate from it.
Mr Saeed said: “This interpretation can be helpful to stop further attacks and fire being set to churches and temples. It is now up to Christian political and religious leadership as to how they take this interpretation and what course of action they takes to protect their places of worship. “Since the chief justice seems sincere in providing justice to the minorities it is time for the minorities to use this opportunity wisely.”
He added that Pakistan is a sovereign state which has its own constitution and institutions but extremists are challenging its writ and authority every day and everywhere by killing innocent people, bombing worship places and attacking civil and military bases. “They are making a mockery of it, but still the government is making every effort to appease these extremists who are creating havoc and terrorising the Pakistani society,” said Mr Saeed. He said extremism continues to grow, along with religious intolerance and hatred against minorities.
“The government seems less interested in tackling the rapidly deteriorating situation in the name of Islam. Extremists are openly threatening human rights defenders, harassing and intimidating judges, killing innocent people accused of blasphemy. “This is the time when the government has to make a stern decision and deal harshly with those involved. This is the issue which needs immediate attention and resolution. “I am sure government is aware of about all those seminaries, madrasahs and other places where these hatemongers are being fed and bred, further obliviousness could be dangerous.”
He further said that it is always said that blasphemy laws are important for the security of the minorities otherwise people will start taking the law in to their own hands. “The recent killing of a 65-year-old man in police custody by a teenager is horrendous and raises questions about the inability, professionalism and integrity of police.”
It is a serious issue of security for victims of blasphemy law. People who are taken into police custody or detained in prisons are the responsibility of the police and jail authorities, but there are several people who have been killed in prison, like Nazir Masih, Fanish Masih and Samuel Masih. Mr Saeed said the government must bring those responsible to justice, and make a policy for the protection and security of people accused or charged under blasphemy laws.