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Salman Taseer says Islam religion of peace, mercy and justice

* Punjab governor says he knew he would be opposed

* Taseer censures those opposing him on Aasia

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer on Monday said that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, and denounced those who opposed his support to Aasia Bibi, a blasphemy convict.

While addressing the launch ceremony of a book by Indian writer and mystic, Muzaffar Ali, titled “The Sufis of Punjab”, at the Governor’s House, Taseer said peace, mercy and justice were the message of Islam. He questioned the philosophy being promoted by terrorists in the name of Islam. He added that the universities and institutions established under the Abbasids and other Muslim kingdoms were centres for promotion of tolerance.

The governor said it was the Sufis who spread Islam across the globe, not terrorists and suicide bombers, and Muslims remained the most peace loving and tolerant people throughout the history. He said Sufis were the true followers of Islam. Talking about his support to Aasia Bibi, Taseer said he had been warned that hate mongers would oppose him over this but he drew strength from the support of tens of thousands of Pakistanis who, he said, backed him.

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The governor denounced those clerics who had issued fatwas against him after he visited Aasia Bibi in jail. On the occasion, Taseer recited the poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, which, he said, promoted the message of equality and stood against injustice.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Ali said that mysticism was in the blood of the people of subcontinent and Sufism was the force which could lead the nation forward. He said it was vital that India and Pakistan invested in ideas rather than arms. People of the two countries had tender feelings for each other, he added. Ali said following the principles of mysticism would help build bridges between the two countries and it will change society. He added that it was time to project Islam in its true sense. Ali said we have lost the message of Rumi, Iqbal, Ghalib and Faiz, who were mystics and promoted humanity. He said that it was our obligation to take the message of mysticism to the young generation.

A large number of people from different walks of life attended the book launch ceremony. Prominent among the attendees were US Consul General Carmella Conroy, Punjab University Vice Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran, Aitchison College Principal Fakir Aijazud Din, Nayer Ali Dada, Yousaf Salahuddin, former PCB chairman Shaheryar Khan, Aamna Taseer, popular singer Abrarul Haq, actors and directors Mustafa Qureshi, Sangeeta, Resham.
Source: Daily Times

Governor Salman Taseer talks boldly about need for a change in
blasphemy laws in Pakistan
and performance of Punjab

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Junaid Qaiser


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  • Plea for case against Punjab governor rejected
    The Lahore High Court turned down on Wednesday a plea for registration of a criminal case against Punjab governor for allegedly denouncing blasphemy laws and helping a woman convicted under these laws.

    Justice Shahid Hameed Dar of the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench disposed of the petition filed by Sardar Zaheer Ahmed, an advocate from Attock, saying that an identical petition was pending before LHC Chief Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif.

    The petitioner did not press for further hearings after the court said that no criminal case could be registered against the governor because he enjoyed immunity under the Constitution. It also said the petitioner could not provide any evidence suggesting that the governor had committed blasphemy, except for a few newspaper clippings criticising the governor for allegedly assailing blasphemy laws.

    Aasia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to death by a trial court in Nankana district after a few Muslim women alleged she had uttered derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

    Making the federal government, Governor Salman Taseer and Aasia Bibi as respondents, the petitioner had alleged that the governor had met Aasia in Sheikhupura jail and got a few documents signed for her release.

    Advocate Zaheer also alleged that the government had planned to extradite Aasia Bibi and requested the court to stop the government from releasing her.

  • Blasphemy laws: 58% of women booked are Muslims
    22 of a total of 38 women booked under the blasphemy laws are Muslims, data obtained from different organisations by The Express Tribune reveals.
    The data also shows that 14 out of the 38 women booked under the blasphemy laws were Christian. A Hindu and an Ahamdi were also among those accused of blasphemy.
    Dr Mehdi Hasan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson, said that around 80 per cent of those accused of blasphemy were falsely implicated. “Many people get a blasphemy case registered against their opponents because of property issues or other personal or family vendetta,” said Hasan.
    Syed Mumtaz Alam Gilani, the federal minister for human rights, said that more and more Muslims were using the laws to settle scores with fellow Muslims. “Currently, there are around 42 cases in which Muslims have registered FIRs against Muslims,” the minister said. Gilani also said that a parliamentary committee was trying to come up with proposals to ensure that the laws are not misused.
    Records of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Ministry of Human Rights, also show that 37 of these women were booked between 1990 and 2010 while only one case was registered in 1987.
    33 women of the 38 are from the Punjab.
    Cases against six were registered in Lahore, five in Sheikhupura, four in Kasur, two in Rawalpindi and two in Gujranwala.
    According to the record available, a Mrs Krishna was the only one to have been booked from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Akhtari Begum and Tabassum Malkana from Sindh and a Zaibun Nisa from Islamabad. The location of one Bushra Taseer booked under 295-C in 1996 was not clear from the records.
    Nazia, Zaibun Nisa, Nasreen Bibi and Naseem Bibi were acquitted.
    An ‘un-discriminatory’ law
    There have been at least two cases, in which mentally-challenged women were also booked for blasphemy.
    Zaibun Nisa, a mentally-challenged Muslim accused, was released after 14 years in prison. The Lahore High Court acquitted the 60-year-old on July 22, 2010.
    In another case, Naseem Bibi, another mentally challenged person, was acquitted after eight months of being accused of blasphemy.
    Acquitted not compensated
    A case was registered against Nazia in June 2009 under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code in Kharian. Nazia, a Christian, always maintained that she did not desecrate the Quran, as was alleged. Soon after the registration of a case against her, she was socially boycotted and had to live alone for six months. The issue was resolved by local elders who found her ‘innocent’. Following that finding the case was dropped. “I hadn’t done anything of the kind and I was happy when the case was dropped. But the time as a person accused of blasphemy was the most difficult one,” she says.
    Nasreen Bibi of Kabirwala was convicted and awarded life imprisonment but her conviction was later over turned by the Supreme Court.
    However, none of the women acquitted filed for damages.
    Peter Jacob, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Church secretary, said that the women did not file defamation or damages suits against complainants because “they do not want the social pressure”. On how to ensure that the laws are not used to settle personal scores, Jacob added, “There should be a penalty for the complainant if his accusations cannot be proven in court. But this is just a safeguard. These laws have many weaknesses.” The secretary said that amendments proposed by Sherry Rehman to the bill that she has recently submitted in the National Assembly were a step in the right direction.
    The bill proposes amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the two main sources of criminal law, calls for a clearer definition of the term ‘blasphemy’. The bill also calls for rationalising the criminal procedure, which includes the concept of premeditation or intent.
    One of the most important changes the bill proposes is that it calls for the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.
    Another amendment proposed proposes that the complainant take full responsibility if the accusations levelled by him are proven to be false.
    Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.

  • ‘Pakistan has taken steps to empower minorities’

    ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti on Friday informed US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter that the Pakistan government had taken several initiatives to uplift and empower minorities in the country.

    He said that the incumbent government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari had been following the vision of Quaid-e-Azam for a progressive, moderate and a democratic Pakistan. Bhatti told Munter that district interfaith committees being established under the Federal Ministry of Minorities Affairs would promote inter-religious dialogue and harmony at gross-root level among different faiths. The US ambassador while appreciating the steps taken by the government to promote interfaith harmony said that Pak-America relations would be strengthened at all levels.

  • The shame of Aasia Bibi’s blasphemy charade

    Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has gone to a Sheikhupura jail where a poor Christian woman bhatta mazdoor (brick-kiln labourer) has been sentenced to death by the sessions judge. She was accused of having blasphemed against the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The governor, unexpectedly for a politician, called it an outrage and has pledged to draft an amnesty letter to the president asking him to pardon Aasia Bibi. Most other politicians have kept quiet while human rights workers and NGOs working for women’s rights have protested at yet another shameful prosecution under the universally condemned blasphemy law in Pakistan.
    Aasia Bibi did hard labour for the local bricklaying industry in Nankana Sahib and had the usual complaint about unfair and violent labour practices. She, however, also ran the gauntlet of living in the midst of an increasingly narrow-minded Muslim community of poor labourers presided over by a bigoted blasphemy law-loving cleric. Two reasons are related to why she was entrapped by an equally colluding police: that she was provoked by other women drawing water when they said that she was ‘napaak’ (impure); and that she had asserted to other women that the meat of Muslim qurbani (sacrifice) was haram (prohibited) for her.
    Whatever the reason for her entrapment, the politician was stunned into silence. Only the Punjab governor proved that he was not a mere drawing room liberal but had the courage to rise to Aasia Bibi’s defence. No one from among the big politicians from small parties like the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Awami National Party raised their voice even after there was international outrage led by the Pope at the Vatican. The PPP, which had just handed over the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to a cleric of the pro-Taliban ferocious variety, was loath to follow Governor Taseer’s example.
    The PML-N was expected to stay out of it — because of its past role in stiffening the accursed law further — reaping mileage when the clergy was to bare it fangs at Governor Taseer, although Nawaz Sharif had gone to a Christian charity school and had probably seen members of his family visit the city’s Christian charity hospital. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah criticised the governor’s action with his ear cocked to what the Sipah-e-Sahaba would say about the case. The clergy did not take long to respond. There was a collective frog chorus saying the blasphemy law could not be changed after a column appeared in this newspaper in which it was argued that the law be repealed. The Barelvis, crushed by the Taliban in numerous suicide attacks, came out saying Aasia Bibi could not be pardoned because pardon itself was un-Islamic.
    It takes eight to nine years for a person convicted under the blasphemy law to get out of jail after a final benign judgement by the Supreme Court. The sessions judge, in most cases himself a bigot, is usually scared into handing out a conviction by the hostile madrassa clergy standing outside his court and baying for blood. Aasia Bibi, while agreeing to ask for pardon, has also appealed the case at the High Court; but the bitter truth is that finally it is the Supreme Court where ‘justice’ is delivered in the midst of a most defamatory campaign by concerned states at the international level. With their hopes at an end, human rights workers led by the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jahangir, have recommended that all blasphemy cases be heard at the High Court level instead of the sessions.
    After the massacre of the Gojra Christians on the charge of blasphemy in 2009, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights had urged the government to re-examine the blasphemy law and improve its procedure. No one in the committee was convinced that anything could be done. In the past, procedural changes such as making blasphemy cases subject to the scrutiny of the divisional commissioner before making arrests and registering FIRs have been ignored. Minorities are increasingly under pressure from the mischief of this deeply-flawed law and there is no one who would agitate the way some of us are agitating for the release of Aafia Siddiqi from an American jail.
    Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2010.