Give them a fair trial before you burn them!

Published: September 14, 2012
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The religious mob often either executed the accusers on the spot or forcefully sent them behind bars without clarifying allegations and the status of charges either against Muslims or non-Muslims. PHOTO: REUTERS.

Finally, Rimsha Masih received the first step towards justice after being granted bail from a district court. She could be the first such person accused of blasphemy to have been bailed in such a short time.

All eyes were focused on her case which gained more prominence after Hafiz Zubair’s evidence against the key accuser. The hearing was closely observed by national and international media, lawyers, civil society and religious scholars.

Still, many things remain to be examined in the ongoing investigation.

However, Rimsha’s case has opened the society’s eyes by exposing the sensitivity of the blasphemy laws, how they have been misused in the past and how people have settled personal scores by involving their enemies in such cases.

It is the first blasphemy case that has also sensitised our religious groups, which have had a track record of creating hype and instigating angry mobs when such incidents took place in the past.

The religious mob often either executed the accusers on the spot or forcefully sent them behind bars without clarifying allegations and the status of charges either against Muslims or non-Muslims.

Due to flaws in the implementation of the law, the number of cases has drastically increased since its enactment, indicating the law’s misuse. However, it needs to be appreciated that Rimsha’s case was handled rationally by a vast majority of religious groups without instigating any actions in public prior to investigation.

This case has further increased the responsibility of religious scholars to play a positive role and handle issues with care. They should consider cases on rational basis without triggering religious sentiments.

Alongside strengthening the implementation process of the law, there is a need for constituting an Ulema board representing all sects of Islam, which should investigate such blasphemy allegations before referring them to the police.

The accused must be given the right to defend him or herself without any prejudice or fear of falling into the hands of angry mobs.

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Obaid Rehman

Obaid Abbasi

A correspondent at the Islamabad desk at The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.