Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are unjust and incompatible with the state’s legal obligation to protect human rights

Recent developments are showing further signs that we Pakistanis are losing empathy and human values taught by our ancestors.

The efforts made for countering the menace of extremism seems to be hindered, not only by the religious groups but also the state.

Puritanical thoughts, which reside in our social fabric, through decades long indoctrination, are speeding like a wrecking ball dismantling tolerance and harmony among the people and acquiring them to give in to the threat of religious fundamentalism.

The blasphemy laws are an epitome of this exertion which is costing us immensely in terms of the polarisation of Pakistani society.

Recently, a man named Taimoor Raza was given death sentence for posting blasphemous content on social media by an anti-terrorism court.  There is, however, a new dimension to the implementation of blasphemy laws which has taken it to another level.

In this age, when social media is stormed by fake news and duplicate accounts, how can a state determine the evidence based on accuracy? Anybody can forge accounts and copy-paste any material in order to frame others.

Such confusion will further fester the divide among people who are already deluded by false supremacy over each other’s beliefs.

Since the blasphemy laws were implemented by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1986, many innocent people have become the victim of these laws.  A large number have faced mob or vigilante justice in the name of Mullah’s Islam, yet these hardliners are trying to present these evil incidents as norm to the ignorant people.

British Empire was also notorious for using similar tactics against the residents of united India to keep them fearful and under control.

Such accounts of the implication of these laws have fanned the hate and prejudice among commoners and turned the society into a hellhole.

According to Al-Jazeera, at least 71 people have been killed by the agitated mob on the charges of blasphemy in Pakistan since 1990.

It is heart-wrenching to see Pakistani Mullahs openly justifying mob lynching even if the accused is innocent.

But what adds insult to injury is the fact that nobody in the society is there to give them a shut up call and call out the fact that they are hellbent on hijacking the religion of Islam, which promises mercy to all.

All residents of Makkah would’ve been dead the day Muslims took over, if the Muslims were following the version of religion that extremist mullahs are trying to sell today.

The religio-political debates in Pakistani judicial system, including Federal Sharia Court and Council of Islamic Ideology mostly, are inspired by the Hanafi school of thought, which implies that the blasphemy is a pardonable offence. However, the rigidity in the blasphemy laws has put dozens of people on the death row without given a fair trial.

Most of the Sunni population in Pakistanis comprises of Hanafis in addition to Deobandi and Barelvi sects. However, Deobandis established connections with hardliner regimes like Saudi Arabia, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and seem to have got carried away by the favors from their rich Salafi friends, adopting many norms from Salafist version of Islam.

Barelvis have also taken influence from their competitors (Deobandis) and have chosen to adopt extreme practices – such as praising killers like Mumtaz Qadri for assassinating Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer on mere accusations of blasphemy.

However, the two minority sects of Muslims, mainly Salafist Ahl-e-Hadith and Shias, follow these extreme positions out of their blind love for Saudi and Iranian regimes respectively.

Sadly,a puritan mindset has overcome the brains of Pakistani state, which is directly or indirectly aiding the mullahs (clerics) to convert us into a theocratic state.

So the blasphemy laws, and the so called pan-Islamism, are just the tools developed by our deep state to control the society and keep the minorities, who would question such practices, ‘under control’.

Today we have gone to the limits of targeting a poor Christian mother Asia Bibi merely for drinking water from a Muslim’s glass, by accusing her of committing blasphemy.

Despite the fact that those who swore against her could not maintain accuracy in their arguments, majority demands her execution.

Her appeal for pardon has been delayed for seven years as no judge is willing to take up the case and serve justice.

The fear of vigilante justice and mob lynching obstruct the police and judges from being uprightly just in such cases.

Such a debased system can only sow the seeds of mistrust for the state machinery that is disinclined towards providing a fair legal system to its subjects.

In broad terms, blasphemy laws and its implication are neither just nor compatible with Pakistan’s international legal obligation to protect human rights at large.

These hardliner mullahs are trying to change our social values and vying to impose a rigid and stubborn system upon us, contrary to the peaceful expression of our faith.

The cultural invasion we are facing is not coming from any neighboring country, but from theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia and Iran which are condemned by the international community for being unjust to the marginalized sections of their own societies.

These regimes are accused of pandering to religious extremism, supporting fanatics and treating their people savagely in order to maintain their hegemony in the region.

Such vicious supremacist attitude is sneaking in our society, affecting a large number of people. People are becoming self-centered and ruthless, and have started taking pride in barbarian practices such as discrimination against minority groups, against women and minors, forced conversion and honor killing.

This depravity seems to overshadow the moral values which distinguish us from animals.

Given the facts,it is time to put in place a solid de-radicalisation policy across the board to treat the masses for the fanaticism that is turning them into the blood sucking vampires – to stop our legal system from persecuting vulnerable people of our society.

This extreme version of religion does not conform to the thoughts and struggle on which Pakistan was founded, nor to the peaceful religious ideology we claim to adhere to.

This country was to guard all its inhabitants regardless of their color, cast and creed. Therefore, it is imperative now to rediscover the purpose of our existence.

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