Original Articles

Politicizing blasphemy law: who is behind Namoos e Risalat movement?

“Many believe the two parties are acting at the behest of the security establishment to undermine the country’s political system.”, BBC

As per the news published in various news papers Pakistan Peoples Party led government appeases religious parties on blasphemy law.

In a move to appease religious parties, the government told the National Assembly on Wednesday it had no mind to change the controversial anti-blasphemy law often seen misused against members of minority communities, but appeared calm against political theatrics of some volatile allies. Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted the house proceedings to make a policy statement “with full responsibility” that the “government has no intention to repeal the anti-blasphemy law and to disown a private bill of a PPP member proposing changes in the Zia-era law to abolish a mandatory death sentence against a convict provided by it and to guard against miscarriage of justice. The government assurance came ahead of what has been described as a countrywide “shutter down strike” called for Friday by a religious grouping seeking to protect the dignity of the holy prophet Mohammad (PBUH), or “namoos-i-risalat”.

“The government regards safeguarding ‘namoos-i-risalat’ as its responsibility and believes in it”, the minister said and, in a reference to the daft submitted by former information minister Sherry Rehman but yet to come before the house, added: “If someone has brought a private bill, it has nothing to do with the government.” Mr Shah also assured the house that the government would not allow any wrong done to minorities, which have often complained of false accusations made against their members under a law enforced by former military dictator Gen Mohammad Zia-u-Haq as part of his controversial campaign to Islamise the Pakistani society.

Although it’s very disappointing news and frustrating development and when political parties and govt’s change their stated positions, they surly deserve criticism. Yet we should not ignore the role of other political powers and other pressure groups.
Here, I also want to clarify that the purpose of this post is not to defend govt’s recent U turn on the blasphemy law or explain it’s position on this issue. However, the purpose of this post is to re-examine the whole episode again and scrutinize the role of [other]state’s institutions.

We have been following the Asia Bibi’s case as close as we could since it started appearing in the International media. And LUBP is the only blog that has been continously writing on this particular case as well as against the blasphemy laws and highlighting events of religious persecution. Due to our bold stance against terrorism and extremism we have been continuously receiving threats and abuses from the extremist forces some of them threatening our very lives. Here are some extremely hateful, violent and life threatening comments extremists have made toward Aasia Bibi at LUBP’s Articles. as well as some extremly encouraging daring comments liberals have made toward Aasia Bibi at LUBP’s articles.

Related articles that indicate us that things are moving in right direction and situation is quite favorable for amendment:

And it’s our observation and assessment from what we have read in the media and what we have written and analyzed. It’s also worth remembering that at that point political situation seemed favourable for the amendment of the controversial law.

So what went wrong and who is at fault? and how situation changed drastically. Is the government solely responsible for that what were other state institutions role and what character did they play in this whole case? Let’s quick rewind and recall the whole case and try to examine & analyze the reasons and sequence of events that led to the present crises.

The blasphemy law received once again international attention and returned to the spotlight in November when the death sentence imposed upon Aasia has provoked a renewed debate about amending the blasphemy law to stop its misuse. The charged debates on television channels, online and print media about amending the blasphemy law reveal how contentious and controversial the laws have become. Almost every Pakistani directly or indirectly is affected by this ongoing situation.

The establishment uses it’s corporately controlled ‘Media’ wing to smear government:

Lamentably, all the top Media Conglomerates are owned and manned by Punjab and Karachi based individuals and media is a trustworthy but non permanent member of our establishment. Journalism is a gentleman’s profession, but here in Pakistan, newly born liberalized media seems to be working up mob hysteria especially against Non Muslims and the democratically elected parliament. Media and its self-puritan anchors are continuously encouraging a pseudo-religious approach to life, society & politics -and its hostile propaganda against Non Muslims, which is very much suitable for extremist aberrations.

Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti human anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians -they are infect inciting hatred and violence among the country’s citizens and especially against those having different or ‘unpopular’ views and thoughts.

The media spotlights are intensely focused on this issue and majority of the writers of English papers condemned these laws and asked unanimously for their removal or at least some amendments to make them less affective. But the problems did start about the time when leading ‘political actors’ initiate smear campaign against it, they advanced in guard and apologia of the blasphemy laws. In the first instance Hamid Mir’s article in the Daily Jang where he cleverly articulated a strong defense for these laws by ringing dead chords of their history, their purpose and their ‘significance’ in our constitution. He sketched an innocent picture of these laws, criticized Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti for speaking against them and urged everyone not to ‘target’ these laws for Asia’s sake. As for the misuse of these laws, he causally brushed it aside by saying that in section 302 (death sentence for those guilty of murder) sometimes innocent people also get convicted by mistake but we obviously can’t remove them from our constitution, therefore the same also goes for the blasphemy laws.

After article he conducted talk show and showed his true colours of being a leading religious extremist anchor as he has invited two other guests of his own denomination and breed in his TV talk show about Blasphemy Laws. Justice (Rtd) Tariq Mahmood is the only voice of enlightenment, demythologization and sanity in this programme, which both other guests are finding difficult to bear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq5MYcRFeS8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07frqJCtWE4

Ms Meher Bokhari invited two senior journalists Saeed Chaudhry and Haroon Rasheed to justify that Blasphemy Law is right, and to criticize the people who are helping Asia Bibi.

Related Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbXJjuIf6-E

Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s leading Urdu newspaper, also endorsed the call for Bibi’s death. It said her punishment “will be carried out in one manner or the other.”

John Bosco writes in his article, It is scandalous how Pakistani anchors and journalists have their roots with the religious parties. It has been noted they have their sympathies with them. This is absolutely antithetical agaisnt the profession of an anchor and journalist to portrait one side of the picture and creates these clerics heroes, similarly they did with Taliban, consequently Pakistan is failed to win war against terrorist in Pakistan.

· In this programme Karman Khan – the dogmatic host of the show, in his introductory remarks said:

· Once again this has been revealed that Pakistanis are tightened with the rope of Islam.

· All over Pakistan from Karachi to Khyber Pakistanis showed their solidity with Islam

· Muslims are united all over Pakistan and they won’t allow Government of Pakistan to amend Blasphemy Law?

· No matter from which Islamic parties they belong their slogan is “We`ll sacrifice our lives we`ll save the sanctity of the Prophet (peace be upon him)”. They are united under the flag of the sanctity of the Prophet (peace be upon him)”.

Legal Tools for the Establishment:

A free and independent judiciary is indispensable for parliamentary democracy to work within the limits of law and constitution. Unfortunately, the judiciary has with rare exceptions been facilitating the military regime.

The acceptance of the doctrine of necessity has on critical occasions undermined the judiciary from working as the guardian of the constitution and protector of the sovereignty of the parliament. In Pakistan, Judiciary is identified as power broker. It has been facilitator under the cover of the Law of Necessity. Contrary to public perception, the current so called independent judiciary is only very friendly to establishment.

Lahore High Court (LHC) called for an account from federal and provincial governments in matter relating the release of Aasia Bibi under Presidential order. The LHC issued stay order on release of Aasia Bibi under Presidential order.

Asma Jahangir, human rights activist and chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), criticised the courts restraining order.

“The president is yet to grant pardon. So there was no need for such an order,” she said, adding that “the court should not take such populist stance”.

A spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the statement of the Lahore High Court, claiming the prerogative and powers of the President. President Zardari through his spokesman said that the High Court has no jurisdiction over his duties and, under Article 45 of the Constitution, the President may at any time decide to grant a pardon. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, with a statement of “its motion” (ie, of their own initiative) has confirmed this interpretation, noting that only the Supreme Court may give binding instructions to the Government or the President.

Efforts for the reunification of Muttahida Majlis-e-Aml (MMA):

On Dec. 3 the imam of Peshawar’s oldest mosque, Maluna Yousaf Qureshi, offered a 500,000 rupee (about $5,800) reward to anyone who killed the Asia Bibi if the court failed to execute her.

A radical alliance – which includes Pakistan Muslim Leagues, religious political parties allied with banned militant groups – has called a large mass national demonstration entitled Namos-e-risalat, that is, defending the honour of the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) on 24 December, after Friday prayers, to say “no” to the release of Asia Bibi and any changes to the blasphemy law.

Hafiz Saeed surfaces in Islamabad:

Jamaat Ud-Dawa chief made his first public appearance in Islamabad in over two years at a meeting of leaders of key religious parties and hardliners opposed to changes in the countrys controversial blasphemy law.
JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed attended the meeting. Addressing the gathering, Saeed stressed the need for a well-organised media campaign in favour of the blasphemy law.

He shared the stage with Ch Shujaat Hussain, Ijaz-ul-Haq and PML-N’s representative Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

Religious Right as Establishment’s principal civilian collaborators.
The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) would be revived within a few weeks as the main hurdle in the revival of the nine religious parties’ alliance, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazle (JUI-F)’s being a part of the Pakistan People’s Party-led government, has been removed after JUI-F quitted the ruling coalition, parties’ sources say.

A JUI-F office-bearer on condition of anonymity told Daily Times that all the parties who were part of MMA including Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Samiaullah (JUI-S) and others, had contacted the party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for revival of the MMA.

With the far right Islamic parties crippling the country with strikes and threats, weakness in the central government does not give the PPP led govt much room to amend the controversial law.

Understanding the motives behind smear campaign launched against PPP led government:

A lawmaker from the ruling PPP has pointed a finger at the country’s security establishment for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as the government promised it will make public an investigation report into the high-profile murder.
“Those who prepared mujahideen for the sake of American dollars and then nurtured another generation of terrorists for more dollars are behind her (Bhutto) murder,” said MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal in the National Assembly.

The above statement clearly illustrates the relationship between establishment and PPP, there is no doubt that the establishment never liked the PPP Government, they always did some efforts to block PPP to come to power and overthrow it’s govt, this reality has again assumed significance in recent days as establishment has initiated preliminary steps to remove the fourth PPP Government from Power. The establishment thinks that Pakistan Peoples Party and it’s government is threat to the hegemony and control they enjoy over the country and it’s resources. Also worrying them is the possibility that if this government completes tenure, a precedent would be set for a civilian government should complete its term.

Obviously there is a long term planning, as has been pointed out above, but there are also immediate gains from the recent move, i.e US court summons ISI chief in Mumbai terror case, and now Pakistan’s government says it will fight a US lawsuit. The American media has been reporting that Pakistan is not willing to take the fight to North Waziristan insinuating that there is a divergence of interests. And Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will take decision on North Waziristan operation. The establishment has also started efforts for the reunification of Muttahida Majlis-e-Aml (MMA). And now MMA who had almost vanished into history is again in the news.

Federal Law Minister Babar Awan told reporters that Friday’s strike was simply the latest attempt to revive a once powerful alliance of religious parties.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal emerged as the third largest vote-winner in the 2002 elections held by the regime of President Pervez Musharraf, but the grouping had broken apart by the time of polls two years ago. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) walks out of coalition in center.

Thanks to the Asia Bibi case, that once again provided probably the best opportunity to the establishment to play their cards once again. Now once again establishment is using it’s old apparatus and device of religion like they did in the past and especially against Shaheed Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. So after analyzing the whole case once again we can safely say that PPP is trying to appease the powerful establishment rather than it’s junior partner religious right.

About the author

Junaid Qaiser

8 Comments

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  • I honestly think that instead of being a free of charge press release centre for the PPP government, we must apportion the blame where it lies.

    In view of recent statements by YRG, Samsam Bokhari, Rehman Malik, Babar Awan etc, I have no doubt in my mind that the PPP led government has appeased the mullahs or/and the establishment on the issue of the blasphemy law.

    I have no complaints against Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi, Meher Bokhari etc. I have complaints against the establishment apologists or/and advocates within the PPP fold.

  • @Dear Abdul Ofcourse we should criticise both Govt and party in articles & posts for U turn or political expediency. And recent statements by Yousaf Raza Gillani, Samsam Bokhari, Rehman Malik, Babar Awan etc, surly deserve criticism.But I don’t see any point in criticizing President Asif Ali Zardari, Sherry Rehman, Governor Salman Taseer or Farahnaz Isphani on this particular issue, as they have not changed their statements and not even apologized.

  • I am Indian. Much as I’d like the ISI whipped into honesty, I don’t see how the US can prosecute them with any honesty after the wikileaks about the CIA prosecutions (Spain, Germany) being sabotaged by US Diplomats.

  • @ Dear Abdul, I know very well..:) We are all supporting diversity, modernity, contemporary thoughts and humanism.
    And we all are against medieval mindset, authoritarian control, dictatorship and religious persecution/discrimination.

  • Engineered Betrayal
    By: Deepika Jaitley

    The MQM’s apparently populist maneuver of leaving the federal government rings of how the Leftist parties abandoned the United Progressive Alliance after the US nuclear deal.

    A week after Altaf Hussain made an impassionate appeal to the obedient masses of Karachi whether they will support the MQM if it leaves the PPP-led government or not, the party that controls Karachi has finally decided to jump the wagon – despite overtures by President Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik – ostensibly because of the ‘petrol bomb’, or price hike in the petrol cost throughout the country. It is common knowledge that the MQM and the PPP – erstwhile allies in the Sindh province as well as the center – were going through a rough patch, with insecurity and target killings rampant in Karachi, the economic situation of the country in the doldrums, the local government system (introduced thoughtout the country but specifically to conform to MQM’s requirements vis-a-vis governing Karachi) and the flurry of aggressive statements flying between MQM and the Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza. Yet, everyone hoped that sense would prevail, and that the MQM would remain part of the PPP coalition.

    The events of Sunday night remind me of how the Leftist parties opted out of the UPA coalition – and even initiated a vote of no confidence in the Congress-led government – after the controversial Nuclear agreement with the US. It was against the manifesto and policies of the CPI-M and other Leftist parties to allow more capitalist intervention in the Indian economy, especially if it meant greater partnerships with the West (read: the US). The NDA opposition spearheaded by the BJP was waiting any such fissure to capitalize from, but it failed miserably because of structural upheavals within the BJP top brass and its ideological connections to the Sangh Parivar. The Congress continued to govern with its allies, and gained a thumping majority in the pursuant Lok Sabha elections, courtesy aggressive politicking by Rahul Gandhi, India’s PM-in-waiting. Most commentators believe it was Rahul’s youthful and dynamic image – in contrast to Modi’s effective but controversially sectarian outlook – that led the Congress to such a resounding victory.

    The same cannot be said for the PPP, in the case of a vote of no confidence, or in the case of the 2013 elections. The PPP has a very bad track record concerning good governance, handling of the economy, management of the war on terror (especially the internal security situation, which – surprisingly – was better managed during Musharraf’s time) and now, their relationship with their allies. The parting of ways with the MQM happened after PM Gilani sacked one of his ministers and one of the JUI-F coalition partner’s ministers for “administrative reasons” – the ministers had engaged in allegations of corruption against each other while still in office. It did not matter that the PM was right in pointing out that any intra-cabinet disagreements should be brought to the PM first and then taken to the media or the public. The JUI-F immediately pulled out of the coalition, asked for more cabinet positions if the government wanted it back in the coalition, and immediately jumped on the blasphemy law bandwagon – Maulana Fazlur Rehman took an aggressive stance by saying that the present dispensation was dangerous for Islam in Pakistan. Evidently, Maulana Fazlur Rehman felt more comfortable with the ‘ghairat’ brigade, a term coined by Pakistani bloggers and intellectuals about the so-called custodians of the faith and defenders of Islam in Pakistan.

    It seems as if this ‘betrayal’ of the PPP has been engineered by the MQM to hurt the most wherever it can. First, the timing of the withdrawal – especially after the right-wing JUI-F left the coalition – has made the international community feel that the PPP isn’t fully up to its secular/left-leaning credentials, since it is scared of moving on the blasphemy laws and on releasing Aasia bibi, a Christian woman falsely accused of blaspheming against Islam’s Prophet Mohammad, and sentenced to death thereafter. Second, the MQM is never known as a trustworthy political ally, and Nawaz Sharif’s first term as PM – as well as the current trading of barbs between Chaudhry Nisar and Waseem Akhtar – has shown. Thirdly, the MQM was increasingly seeing the PPP as a competitor to its awesome sway in Karachi – the ability to conjure crowds of thousands if not millions to listen intently and respectfully to Mr. Altaf Hussain’s lunatic rants sitting in the comforts of his palace in Edgware Road. The MQM was arguably created by General Zia ul Haq – Pakistan’s hated Islamo-fascist dictator of the 70′s and 80′s – to break the PPP’s hold in Karachi, Sindh’s urban capital. However, the MQM transformed into a quasi-terrorist organization, controlling the mafias and the very lives of Karachi citizens.

    The MQM could plunge Karachi into chaos at the beck and call of its ‘Quaid’ sitting in London and completely oblivious to the ground reality of Karachi; it could wantonly murder anyone in broad daylight if he or she was even suspected of saying anything against ‘Altaf bhai’; it could suddenly restore order and call for peace despite the murders of more than a hundred Karachi’ites each month in 2010. There were over a thousand deaths in Karachi till October 2010 alone – more than the casualties suffered by the civilian population in their fight against the Taliban.

    A lot of speculation is afoot regarding the PML-N’s role after the PPP’s weakening at the federal level. Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N Quaid and supremo (the N in PML-N stands for ‘Nawaz’) has said that he is not a friend of the government, but he will support the system; a veiled threat towards disabling the government but letting it see through its current term. This means that the PML-N might not call for a vote of no confidence against the PM – not because it doesn’t like the PPP, but because it will have to nominate an alternative name for the PM, and finding such an acceptable person at least within the PML-N is a difficult task. This is why the PML-N isn’t as eager as the BJP was in July 2008. For one, the President – Asif Ali Zardari, Co-Chairman of the PPP – isn’t likely to ask the PM – another Co-Chairman of the PPP – to obtain a confidence vote from the National Assembly legislators. That, coupled with the absence of a viable and workable alternative for the PM slot, is reason to believe that the PPP may continue functioning as a minority government – if it is unable to bring the PML-Q on board, that is. The main drawback with a minority government is that if it fails on a money bill, like the budget that is coming up in June 2011, then the government may “automatically fall” according to the wisdom of Khawaja Asif, former Sports Minister and PML-N’s legislator from Sialkot.

    Only time will tell what cards the PPP – or Mr. Zardari or Mr. Gilani for that matter – will pull out from their sleeves to play this hand.

    Source: http://deepikascorner.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/engineered-betrayal-2/

  • Taseer murder politically motivated, NA told
    ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party in the National Assembly on Friday formally termed the assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer politically motivated and a conspiracy against the democratic system.

    As it was the last day of the current session, the House proceedings on Friday consumed most of the time on points of order.

    In her speech on a point of order, MNA Fauzia Wahab, who is also the PPP Information Secretary, made it clear the Constitution guarantees that there will be no differentiation among the citizens of Pakistan on the basis of religion. “There is no Muslim, Hindu, Christian but all are Pakistanis in Pakistan,” she added.

    She said that when Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer went to see Aasia Bibi, was it blasphemy. “A statement issued by one of the provincial ministers of the Punjab said that this meeting will cost Salmaan Taseer dearly.”

    She was of the view that if Aafia Siddiqui was a daughter of the country, then same was the case with Aasia Bibi as she also needed protection.

    Fauzia Wahab said the cancer that has spread in the society has removed tolerance and now it is time that all moderate forces get united to remove this malignancy.

    Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, paying tributes to late Salmaan Taseer, said he stood up for Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan, which has guaranteed equality to all the citizens of the country. “Salmaan Taseer talked about the rights of minorities,” he added.

    He slammed those who distributed sweets on the killing of Salmaan Taseer and wanted to impose their own agenda in the country. “We will not allow anyone to divide Pakistan on the basis of religion,” he added. He said no one in Pakistan could think of blasphemy of the prophets.

    On the issue of Balochistan, Lt General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, on a point of order, raised the issue of killing after kidnapping of Baloch youths and questioned why those people were not brought before the law who kidnapped Baloch youth and then killed them.

    He said in the much trumpeted Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package, it was promised that all the FC checkposts would be removed from Balochistan but the government was erecting new checkposts instead of removing the present ones.
    http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=3183&Cat=13&dt=1/8/2011

  • Alhamdulillah we are Muslims. And ummat e Muhammadia .we should raise our voice against those people whom disrespect our Prophet SAW .And those people should be punished. I am so disappointed by our media and our Govt. At Peshawar incident they were very active to punish terrorists and feel sorry for the children .Now where is there activeness and offending and there protesting…
    It is shameful for us that we are sitting idle and doing nothing.