10/10/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN - ISLAM

Pakistan “legalises” persecution through blasphemy laws

Until 1986, only seven people charged with desecrating the Koran or reviling the name of Mohammed. Since the introduction of black law over 4 thousand cases reported, mostly in the last five years. The protest of Christians and members of civil society. The law "protects killers" and those who "incite violence on the streets."
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The introduction of the notorious blasphemy laws in 1986, during the dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan, has led to an exponential increase in complaints for "desecration of the Koran" or "defamation of the Prophet Muhammad." Between 1927 and 1986, when the "black law" was approved, there were only seven cases of blasphemy. Instead, the victims since 1986 have risen to over 4 thousand and the figure continues to rise: in fact, from 1988 to 2005, the Pakistani authorities indicted 647 people for offenses relating to blasphemy, but in recent years, there have been thousands of cases of Christians, Muslims, Ahmadis, and members of other religions accused by word of mouth, without the slightest scrap of evidence.

The crime of blasphemy provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty. However, the 30 confirmed victims of blasphemy have died as a result of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by fanatics with the endorsement - or complicity - of the authorities and police forces. Complaints and killings are mostly the result of jealousy, personal enmities, economic or political interests that have nothing to do with Muhammad and Islam. This long trail of blood caused by the norms 295 B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code are signs of the "Islamization" of the nation, founded in 1947 on the principles of secularism, equal rights and religious freedom. Today the Christian community - around 2% of the population, concentrated mostly in the Punjab province - is seen as a threat for three fundamental reasons: Christianity is regarded as a "Western" religion, members of religious minority are considered liberal and representatives of a middle class - especially Protestants - educated, associated with the leadership of the colonial past, what is done by or against the Christians is "exaggerated" or overestimated.

The "Black Law" in the last 20 years has resulted in attacks against entire communities, as happened in Shantinagar and Multan (1997), or in the recent past in Gojra (2009), with deaths and dozens of houses torched. Pakistani Christians and civil society mourn three prominent figures, regarded as "martyrs": the Catholic Bishop John Joseph, who committed suicide in 1998 in protest against the death sentence of two Christians, the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim murdered by his bodyguard on January 4 this year, the Minister for Religious Minorities, the Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, killed by an armed commando on March 2 last year. The last two had requested the cancellation of the law and the liberation of Asia Bibi, a 45 year old Christian mother of five children, sentenced to death under the black law.

Many Christians and non-Pakistanis protest against the violence and human rights violations perpetrated under the law. For Basharat Gill the blasphemy law "protects the killers and promotes street violence," revealing the "weakness of the judiciary." Nadeem Raphael adds that "no religion permits violence and cruelty" against other human beings. "It is not enough that Islam is tolerant - Sadaf Saddique comments - we all need to promote peace, regardless of faith." Bonnie Mendes warns that "it is absolutely right to stop the killings in the name of Islam", but he also emphasizes that "even those who kill are wrong in trying to export their model of democracy."

Printable version
CLOSE X
See also
"We are optimistic," says Paul Bhatti as Rimsha Masih's bail hearing postponed to Friday
03/09/2012
Punjab: Christian families flee false accusation of blasphemy
17/06/2011
Pakistani Christian leader calls for a strong and rooted party for minorities
04/11/2011
Mgr Saldanha Pakistani Christians oppressed by violence rediscover God
12/05/2011
Pakistani Muslims with the Pope for religious freedom and repeal of blasphemy law
13/01/2011