COMMENT: Taking stock —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad - Friday, February 25, 2011

Source :\02\25\story_25-2-2011_pg3_2

Quaid-e-Azam always wanted equality for every single person living in this country. He also stressed that theocracy will never be a political system for the country and it is not the duty of the state to implement religion because minorities live here as well

Blasphemy was the word of the month for January. Everyone talked about the implications of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. Of course some talked in favour, while others against it. This word even took the life of a liberal voice in Pakistan, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer. The religious right took to the streets and issued warnings of violence and chaos if any effort is made even to propose a change in the law. Their focus changed as soon as the Raymond Davis case came to the limelight.

The blasphemy law has been at the centre of all the political drama played during the last month or so. Sherry Rehman and Bushra Gohar were among the legislators who proposed a change in the law. Both of them were widely criticised by the religious right and their advocates in the media as well. Religious hardliners even issued warnings and death threats against them. Shaheed Salmaan Taseer lost his life because he questioned the misuse of the blasphemy law. The killer inspired by the fiery sermons of some clerics thought of it as his religious duty to kill Salmaan Taseer. I wish he knew his religion before he committed such a crime. The importance of oath and pledge is highlighted in our religion and the Pact of Hudaibiya clearly indicates how our Prophet (PBUH) fulfilled the pact even though some of its clauses were not favouring the Muslims. But the killer of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, who took an oath to protect and safeguard him, could not respect the importance of it.

Although the religious right has never enjoyed support from the majority of Pakistanis, it has always been successful in using pressure tactics to further its point of view. This government also came under pressure and announced that no change will be made to the existing blasphemy law. This move silenced the religious right but was widely criticised by the liberal circles and the minorities.

Quaid-e-Azam always wanted equality for every single person living in this country. He also stressed that theocracy will never be a political system for the country and it is not the duty of the state to implement religion because minorities live here as well. His ideology was simple and based on human dignity. But somewhere in the pages of history, we lost the words of the Quaid, ruined his ideology and moved towards the Islamisation of the whole country. This move never benefited the Muslims or the minorities but was adopted by the dictator, Ziaul Haq, to legitimise his illegal occupation of the country and the religious circles made him ‘Ameer-ul-Momineen’.

Religion is now an integral part of our constitution and Quaid-e-Azam also mentioned that the future constitution would be shaped according to the teachings of Islam. But I guess we misinterpreted him somewhere. He wanted to shape the constitution in the light of Islamic laws, because he believed in the supremacy of Islam. Unfortunately, everything went wrong after his death and we have never succeeded in shaping a just and viable constitution. The 1973 Constitution was the first effort in the right direction, but was ruined by General Zia and he, for the sake of extending his rule, inserted the penal law system that was derived from incorrect religious interpretations into the constitution.

Now that most of the liberal and educated classes criticise the blasphemy law, their voices are not being heard. The religious right, who have always succeeded in pressurising governments by the use of violence, always refrain from accepting even a single call to review these punitive laws. Presently, our country is clearly and very explicitly viewing the implications of violence that has been slowly but very affectively injected into the people. The resolution of each and every problem in Pakistan now demands violence and pressure. Even if someone has to pursue his/her constitutional and legitimate right(s), the use of pressure and violence becomes necessary.

Pakistan is being viewed as one of the most dangerous countries on earth. The frequency with which terrorist attacks occur in our country, each and every one of us has now grown immune to violence. This is perhaps the leading reason why we prefer violence over a legal course of action.

Serious efforts are required to draw consensus amongst everyone to find a solutions of our issues, including the blasphemy law. The religious right, instead of rising as a political force, must view this issue rationally. They must calm and silence their people because the country is going through the toughest period in its history. The liberal circles and the religious right need to sit together and find a mutually agreed solution for this problem. Equality of man is superior to everything else and that is what we need to understand. Religion is certainly important, but a very personal matter. Instead of highlighting the penal codes drawn from Islamic law, the religious right should rally for the establishment of Islamic institutions of zakat, Islamic banking, etc, so that the world can see the real benefits of religion.

For the last 63 years, we have been moving in the wrong direction, or more precisely without any direction. It is time for the religious circles to play their part and work for the real Islam, the religion that came to help those who were being persecuted.

The majority of time the blasphemy law has been used to settle personal enmities and issues. It never contributed to the glory of Islam. Unfortunately, it contributed to the defamation of Islam in the eyes of others. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) always presented himself as an example for others so that they can observe and learn. That is the way of Islam and that is what we need to adopt. Consensus is badly needed over these issues so that we can save the image of our religion in front of the whole world.

The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant. She can be reached at

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