Stories about blasphemy law

The blasphemy law and Junaid Hafeez’s forgotten plight

Given that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa is currently preoccupied with whether or not General Bajwa should receive an extension, it is possible that a recent letter addressed to him may have slipped through the cracks, passing by his radar undetected. On November 26th, the parents of Junaid Hafeez wrote to Khosa asking him to provide justice to their son who has been in jail since 2013 on blasphemy charges. Belonging to the district of Rajanpur, Punjab, from a young age Hafeez excelled academically and eventually decided to teach English Literature at his alma matter, the Bahauddin Zakariya University in ...

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Why did a judge’s belief system stop him from hearing a blasphemy case?

In 2012, Zafar Bhatti was arrested in Rawalpindi for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages. Bhatti, who is a Christian, had subsequently been sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in Rawalpindi and has been in prison ever since, even though it has been proven that the mobile phone from which the blasphemous texts were supposedly sent was not registered under his name to begin with. Nonetheless, Bhatti still languishes in jail and his appeal hearings are repeatedly postponed. But the latest reason as to why Bhatti’s court hearing has been delayed is truly perplexing. A few days ago, Judge Raja Shahid Mehmood Abbasi stated that ...

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When will people like Khateeb stop using a peaceful religion as a tool for violence?

A frightening incident recently took place in Bahawalpur in which a student fatally stabbed his teacher. The teacher wanted to organise a welcome party which the said student considered ‘un-Islamic’ due to the intermingling of males and females. In a chilling confessional video, the student alleged that the late professor used to ‘insult’ Islam on a regular basis. He showed absolutely no remorse for his action, and when asked as to why he didn’t take the legal route, his answer was that courts in Pakistan are freeing ‘blasphemers’. A student of 5th semester at Govt Sadiq Egerton College in Bahawalpur who identifies himself as Khateeb Hussain when ...

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In Naya Pakistan, we give great speeches… but that’s about it

It will not be an overstatement to suggest that the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi on the charges of blasphemy against her was a historic moment for Pakistan, one that will not be forgotten anytime soon, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. The entire country was brought to a lock down once again, as anti-state actors (they cannot simply be called protestors) questioned and protested a verdict reached by a bench of judges deeply familiar with the intricacies of the case and actually qualified to judge them. As the country waited for the government of Naya Pakistan to ...

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The diaspora of Naya Pakistan: The time is ripe for us to pay back to the motherland what is due

Some years ago, summer of 2012 to be precise, I hosted an informal morning tea for Maleeha Lodhi, and while discussing the upcoming 2013 elections, she said to me, “It is not the Pakistan that this diaspora may have left 20 years ago, it’s a different Pakistan. The public is more desperate, the crises are much more and the conscious awareness that every vote counts is on everyone’s mind.” Hence, to me, her statement implied that Imran Khan was going to be elected prime minister in the 2013 elections, but history tells us a different tale. Imran fell, and with ...

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Why Pakistan needs Imran Khan

It’s been a long journey for Imran Khan. He founded his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996, and for many years made no real progress. Many mocked him. The Guardian journalist Declan Walsh dismissed him as ‘a miserable politician’, whose ideas and affiliations had ‘swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rainshower’. PTI did make a limited amount of progress in the 2013 General Elections, when it emerged as the second largest party by national vote and with 30 parliamentary seats. Furthermore, Imran’s party secured control of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). But none of this was enough to challenge for national ...

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The jury and the executioner: Misusing the blasphemy law for personal vengeance

A few days ago, I came across a headline that shook me to the core. A student killed his principal in Charsadda, on the pretext that the man had committed blasphemy by merely reprimanding him for his absence from school. The student had skipped school to attend the infamous Faizabad sit-in. The fact that the dharna was supposedly conducted for the protection of the finality of prophethood, and his principal indirectly rebuking him for attending it, was enough for the student to justify killing him. Over the past several years, I have witnessed several incidents in which blasphemy was used as a pretext for framing and killing individuals. There ...

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Pakistan should become a secular state, but how realistic is that?

In one of my articles last year, I tried to make a normative case for secularism in Muslim countries. I argued that given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and growing sectarianism, there is a case of secularism in Muslim countries. Since a secular state is religiously neutral, therefore it would allow various sects in Islam, as well as non-Muslim minorities, to practice their faith freely. Moreover, it would delink the religion with legal code and therefore laws would start reflecting contemporary realities. In my opinion, the idea should at least be entertained in our discourse as it merits serious deliberation. My own country, Pakistan, perhaps is ...

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When Mashal Khan fell victim to our criminal mind-set

Yesterday, I received the news through a WhatsApp message wherein my younger brother sent me a video clip and requested me to watch it. Although the video was brief, about 45 seconds, but it was long enough to make me sick to my stomach. What I was seeing was barbarism at its worst – a large crowd beating an already dead man. Many were silently watching and no one was even trying to stop it. That video, along with many others, has gone viral. At a time when the global opinion about Muslims and Pakistan is already worsening, this ...

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The mantle of religious interpretation needs to be taken away from the clergy

I have often been more amazed not at the religious fanaticism of the few, but at passivity of the moderate majority. And although sceptics will cast their doubt, the fact is that Pakistan on the whole has a moderate population. In Pakistan, comparable fervour is dominant only in pockets. Yes, this is a country which has Taliban but it is also a country where people have largely voted for moderate parties. This is a country which despite being conservative has never voted the clergy into power. It has a relatively independent media and entertainment avenues are more eclectic compared to ...

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