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A dark law of Pakistan

A dark law of Pakistan

Pakistan is an Islamic state. The colours in the Pakistani flag have meaning, attached to the religion Islam. There are two basic colours in the flag of Pakistan, the green colour represents the Muslim population of the country. It is associated with the traditions of Islam. A crescent and star in the middle represent symbols of Islam. The white colour is representing the minorities in the country.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan

The offences relating to religion were first codified by India's British rulers in 1860, and were expanded in 1927. Pakistan inherited these laws when it came into existence after the partition of India in 1947.

Between 1980 and 1986, a number of clauses were added to the laws by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq. He wanted to "Islamicise" them and also legally to separate the Ahmadi community, declared non-Muslim in 1973, from the main body of Pakistan's overwhelmingly Muslim population.
The law enacted by the British made it a crime to disturb a religious assembly, trespass on burial grounds, insult religious beliefs or intentionally destroy or defile a place or an object of worship. The maximum punishment under these laws ranges from one year to 10 years in jail, with or without a fine.
During the 1980s the blasphemy laws were created and expanded in several instalments. In 1980, making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages was made an offence, carrying a maximum punishment of three years in jail.
In 1982, another clause prescribed life imprisonment for "wilful" desecration of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. In 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the penalty recommended was "death, or imprisonment for life", in that order.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) - a voluntary organisation - has been documenting blasphemy cases for decades. It says that Muslims constitute the majority of those booked under these laws, closely followed by the Ahmadi community.
Data provided by National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) shows a total of 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmedis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law since 1987.
The vast majority of these cases were lodged for desecration of the Koran - far fewer for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
A large majority of Pakistani people support the idea that blasphemers should be punished, but there is little understanding of what the religious scripture says as opposed to how the modern-day law is codified.
Many believe the law, as codified by the military regime of General Zia-ul Haq back in the 1980s, are in fact straight out of the Koran and therefore is not man-made.
When Punjab Governor Salman Taseer - a prominent critic of the law - was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011, Pakistan was divided, with some hailing his killer as a hero.
Amending the blasphemy laws has been on the agenda of nearly all the popular secular parties. But none of them has made much progress - principally because of the sensitivities over the issue, but also because no major party wants to antagonise the religious parties.
A month after Salman Taseer was killed, Religious Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who spoke out against the laws, was shot dead in Islamabad, underlining the threat faced by critics of the law.
In 2010, a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, introduced a private bill to amend the blasphemy law. Her bill sought to change procedures of religious offences so that they would be reported to a higher police official and the cases heard directly by the higher courts. The bill was passed to a parliamentary committee for vetting. It was withdrawn in February 2011 under pressure from religious forces as well as some opposition political groups.
This law is still a dark law for the minorities of Pakistan.
(Reference: articles of BBC on the subject of blasphemy laws in Pakistan)


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