I stand with Junaid Jamshed

Published: December 9, 2014
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Those were the days JJ was mesmerising crowds with his famous Dil Dil Pakistan Jan Jan Pakistan. He would have never imagined the same Pakistan would doubt his sincerity in the future. PHOTO: JUNAID JAMSHED FACEBOOK PAGE

The year was 1990. Junaid Jamshed was at the height of his career when a petition was filed in the Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan that the punishment for blasphemy under Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code is not appropriate under the light of Quran and Sunnah. Until then, the punishment could include life imprisonment, fine or death. The petition suggested that only the death penalty could be the right punishment for a blasphemer.

It was a tumultuous time in the Pakistani political landscape.  The year saw a change of three Prime Ministers- the ousted PM Benazir Bhutto, the caretaker PM Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi followed by the elected PM Nawaz Sharif.  Despite the shuffle, the government could have filed an appeal against the petition but it didn’t and so death penalty became the mandatory punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy under Section 295-C.

Then came a surge in the registration of blasphemy cases in Pakistan. An analysis of the cases registered for blasphemy reveals that we have started finding more blasphemers since 1986 when section 295-C was first added in the Pakistan Penal Code. The records of Human Rights organizations reveal that mob violence against those accused of blasphemy rose steeply after 1990 when death penalty was left as the only possible punishment for a blasphemer.

Those were the days Junaid Jamshed was mesmerising crowds with his famous Dil Dil Pakistan Jan Jan Pakistan.  He would have never imagined the same Pakistan would doubt his sincerity in the future. While expressing his love and admiration for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in his eloquent Naat years later, he would have never thought for a second that he would be accused of causing any disrespect to holy personages by the same people who supported him in his new endeavour.

But he is in hot water now. His opponents are many. The conservatives amongst us are not willing to accept his profuse public apology because as Muhammed Mubeen Qadri of Sunni Tehreek has said in a report by BBC Urdu that an individual cannot pardon him and the proceedings should be carried out through court.

It is worrying though, that in many cases in the past, angry mobs have reacted even before a case could be filed. In fact over the years we have grown so obsessed with punishing anyone who comes even close to the letter “b” of the word blasphemy that we don’t want to wait for the court to go into session before our fatwas take lives of the accused.

On the other hand of the scale there are some modern and enlightened Pakistanis who are using the same acerbic vocabulary on social media that defames the typical conservative hardliners. We had issues with Junaid Jamshed’s various views in the past and it is the perfect time to grind our axes against him. With his turban and a beard he personifies conservative mullah-ism and so we feel it is ok to direct our hatred at him.

I have my own laundry list of complaints against Junaid Jamshed. I don’t agree with many of his views especially on women but that doesn’t mean I won’t stand with him today.

I stand with Junaid Jamshed because he reminds me of another Junaid – Junaid Hafeez, who has been behind bars for over a year for alleged blasphemy and whose lawyer Advocate Rashid Rehman was murdered ruthlessly for defending him in court. I stand for a fair trial for Junaid Hafeez and for justice for Rashid Rehman.

I support Junaid Jamshed because I haven’t reconciled with the killing of Salman Taseer when he asked that Asia Bibi be pardoned and questioned the man-made section of the blasphemy law. Unlike Junaid Hafeez, he was never arrested and had received no chance to defend himself in the court of law but we; the flag bearers of law and justice raised his murderer to the status of a hero.

I am with Junaid Jamshed today because the thought of a Christian couple burning to death in the inferno of a brick kiln still gives me nightmares.  We are quick to react often in the most abhorrent of ways and the height of hypocrisy is that we justify our intolerance in the name of a religion that teaches to be tolerant; our vengeance in the name of a religion that values forgiveness; our hatred in the name of a religion that stands for peace.

When I stand for Junaid Jamshed, it is these principles of justice, forgiveness, tolerance and peace that I wish to stand by. I know I am not alone but I will continue stand by these principles even if I am the last person standing.

I stand with Junaid Jamshed because, in the name of my religion, I stand with mercy and forgiveness.

Sarah Alvi

Sarah Alvi

A graduate from The Columbia Journalism School and a passionate visual artist. She is fascinated by Pakistan and curious about the world in general. She tweets as @sarah_alvi (twitter.com/sarah_alvi)

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