Pakistan seems too occupied in finding faults regarding religious intolerance with its immediate neighbour India and it conveniently forgets what's happening in its own backyard.
Amid continued cases of lynching, violent and wanton attacks in Pakistan on the pretext of blasphemy, the Legislative Assembly in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has recently passed two resolutions unanimously regarding the finality of the prophethood and the honour and respect of the prophet's companion and the family. The resolution glaringly states that the Qadiani, Lahori and Ahmadi sects are against Islam and that they should be declared as non-Muslims or infidels. And if at all they claim themselves as Muslims, they should be criminally charged. Liberals, albeit in minuscule number blame the bigots of adhering to extreme religious intolerance by trying to impose such Acts.
On the face of it, the timing of the said resolution looks highly suspicious for taking a position in favour of blasphemy laws similar in Pakistan. It is pertinent to note that the Legislative Assembly is dominated by members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and that being the ruling party, it is able to manipulate things in its religious favour. The incumbent government through its legislators is adding fuel to the prevailing bigotry further by fanning religious violence in Pakistan.
Against this backdrop, the month of April has been disastrous in Pakistan in terms of religious onslaughts under the cover of blasphemy laws. Most shocking and condemnable incident was the 13 April killing of Mashal Khan by a strong mob of 500 at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan. He was killed merely on suspicion of being an Ahmediya allegedly trying to be blasphemous! It's sad to see such an occurrence taking place in a place of learning. A place where seculars like Abdul Gaffoor Khan alias Frontier Gandhi lived and preached religious tolerance and equality.
The bigotry linked violence in Pakistan does not end here. On 20 April, three armed persons killed a man in Sialkot, accused of blasphemy 13 years ago. Subsequently, again on 22 April, a frenzied mob fatally attacked a man accused of blasphemy at a Friday prayers' congregation in a northern Pakistani town. At least six policemen were grievously injured when they tried to intervene to help the hapless. Again on 25 April, at least 14 people including six children were killed and 13 injured when a passenger van was targeted with the remote controlled bomb in Parachinar Khurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The victims were Shias, an eyesore of the zealots practicing an intolerant form of Islam. These are some illustrations to prove the point that tirade against the religious minority is active and Pakistan government does not seem to be serious in containing the damaging trend.
Further, the accusation of blasphemy is being used as a lethal tool allowing the perpetrator to dispense 'justice' then and there. It is also used as a pretext to deny almost every single fundamental human right. Asia Bibi, the Christian accused of blasphemy was recently denied the right to even medical treatment inside the jail. Her case has been pending now for over ten years.
Blasphemy laws, the human rights watchers say, are particularly dangerous in countries like Pakistan where the collapsing judicial system, weak rule of law and ineffective State control make the certainty of punishment for crime totally absent.
Lamentably, Pakistan ranks 81st among 113 countries with a poor track record of human rights. The rising incidences of miscarriage of justice and breakdown of law and order are giving rise to military courts which are more than often arbitrary in their verdicts.
By allowing assemblies to pass religious resolutions, the State is instigating intolerant and zealots to resort to violence. Their tall claims notwithstanding to bring the religious oppressors to justice, the government continues to introduce laws and policies in Pakistan which are detrimental to national security and peace. Pakistan needs to put its house in order before it points its accusing fingers towards India.
The author is a retired IPS officer and a Senior Fellow with the India Police Foundation. Views are personal.
Updated Date: May 05, 2017 09:59 AM