Pakistan’s Draconian Blasphemy Laws
By: Ghalib Kamal
A country founded on the basis of a religious Ideology, 14th August 1947 was the day Pakistan was founded after the division of Indo-Pak Subcontinent. Religious entities had the capacity to dominate since the founding. Voices of reason were strangled and after fall of Dhaka in 1971 Pakistan was on a set course towards being a player in the Cold war. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto prepared a new constitution for the country and declared Ahmedis who are Muslim minority sect as non-Muslims, he had banned liquor, and through his actions, Muslim clergy continued becoming powerful in the country.
Zia Ul Haq’s coups d’état in 1977 was the stepping stone for Islamic fascism in the country, many elements of Islamic Sharia were incorporated into the Pakistani Constitution. Blasphemy Laws of 295 B and C were established, which made criticism of Islam, Quran and Prophet Muhammad a capital offense punishable by death. The most vulnerable in regards to the country’s blasphemy laws are its minorities. A child of just 13 named Barkat Masih was the first popular victim of the use of Blasphemy laws, his uncle and father were killed outside the court at a hearing, he himself barely escaped. Barkat Masih was cleared of all charges, this enraged the Muslim clergy. Over the decades since Barkat Masih case thousands of people have been victims of the blasphemy laws, but the evidence presented in blasphemy cases is often very poor, because of which it is very hard to convict someone.
Islamic Clerics have realized this weakness but they are afraid that if these laws are put up for an amendment the laws could be totally relegated or become ineffective. That is why in the recent years through lawyer unions any lawyer who takes a blasphemy victims case is pressurized to surrender representation, because of which hundreds of alleged blasphemy cases never reach the court. The lawyers who have stood their ground to represent the victims of blasphemy cases have been killed and threatened time and again. Rashid Rahman a Pakistani lawyer who was representing Junaid Hafeez a man accused of blasphemy was killed in 2014.
Blasphemy laws are draconian in nature, once a person is accused of blasphemy the religious clerics start a propaganda campaign, they threaten lawyers and human rights organizations not to help, they try to kill the accused out of court which has happened many times, many blasphemy victims have been poisoned in Jail. Asia Bibi who is the first woman convicted of blasphemy according to these laws has been sentenced to death and waiting for a trail in a higher court. No lawyer can dare take her case because of fear of the same outcome as Rashid Rehman.