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From Shaheed Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti to Shaheed Salman Taseer: PPP’s struggle against the Ziaist Blasphemy Law

The PPP has a long history of standing up to Islamofascism and Islamopatriotism in Pakistan, which have been systematically and institutionally cultivated in the curricula, mosques, schools, madrassahs, media and other aspects of Pakistani society by the military establishment.

The martyrdom of Salman Taseer is not the first in the PPP’s effort to protect the peaceful message of Islam and the Prophet (pbuh). Previously a daring and honest judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti was killed by Islamo-fascists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba in 1997 when he acquitted two innocent Christians accused of blasphemy to the Quran.

It may be noted that only a few days before shaheed Taseer’s murder, several extremist mullahs (proxies of the establishment) had threatened that: “if Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High Court could be assassinated for acquitting two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, government functionaries supporting Aasia Bibi should not expect to be spared.”

Of course those threatening Taseer and the PPP were “adequately resourced” to implement their threat, which they did implement on 4 January 2011 by murdering Governor Taseer.

Abbas Ather has written an excellent op-ed in daily Express today connecting shaheed Bhatti’s murder to shaheed Taseer’s murder.

Let’s start with an overview of shaheed Bhatti’s murder:

Context of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti’s murder

1993:

• Three Christians namely Salamat Masih, 11, Manzoor Masih, 38, and Rehmat Masih, 44, are accused of writing blasphemous remarks on a wall belonging to a mosque. Although the mother of Salamat Masih said that her son did not know how to read. They are charged with blasphemy under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law (the Black Law) (Section 295C).

In the trial court, all three were convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court. An appeal was allowed when it was determined that they were illiterate.

1994:

• Manzoor Masih is gunned and killed outside the District and Sessions Court after exiting a hearing in April. Salamat and Rehmat Masih got injured but survived. Bishop John Joseph speaks out against the attack.

• In August, the Masih case grants leave for appeal on the condition that the investigation is continued.

1995:

• Salamat Masih 14, and Rehmat Masih 46, got the death penalty in February.

• On February 23rd, Lahore High Court acquits Rehmat Masih and Salamat Masih based on the objectionable material since Christians were not familiar Arabic, they would not know how to write the name of Allah (swt) in Arabic. The bench included Justice Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti and Justice Chaudhry Khurshid Ahmad.

• The fanatics of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Sipah-e-Sahaba, JUI-F, JUP, Jamiat-e-Ahle-Hadith etc went into high gear, calling for the hanging of the two survivors, who later had to be smuggled out of the country. A country-wide strike takes place by milli Yakjehti Council, which umbrellas many different religious, groups in May. Major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Chitral, Quetta, and Rawalpindi observed the strike.

1997:

• Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti is assassinated in his chambers at Lahore High Court.

1998:

• The killer of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti was captured and said he killed the judge because he was on the bench that acquitted two Christian men, Salamat and Rehmat Masih in a blasphemy case.

(Source 1: Dawn); (Source 2: Domini)

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  • DAWN / NEWS International, Karachi
    11 October 1997

    http://www.karachipage.com/news/oct97/101197.txt

    Former LHC judge gunned down in Lahore

    LAHORE, Oct 10: A prominent PPP leader and former Lahore High Court judge Arif Iqbal Husain Bhatti was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in his Turner Road office here on Friday morning.

    Mr Bhatti was a member of the Lahore High Court, Division Bench, which had acquitted Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih in a blasphemy case in 1995 amidst protests by activists of a religious organization. A modest, soft-spoken person, Mr Bhatti was a popular figure in both legal and political circles.

    According to eyewitnesses, the armed assailant, said to be a shabbily-dressed bearded person of around 45, had entered Mr Bhatti’s office when he had just arrived there from the courts at about 10.40am. The man whipped out a pistol and fired several times at the former judge, who was hit in the face and the stomach.

    An office boy was present in the office. Mr Bhatti’s younger brother, who had his chambers close-by, was immediately informed of the shooting and he rushed to Mr Bhatti’s office. Mr Bhatti was alive but critically injured. It is said that because of the security arrangements on The Mall on account of the visit of Queen Elizabeth, he could not be taken to the Mayo Hospital. His brother then tried to take him to the Services Hospital, but even side lanes were jammed with traffic and Mr Bhatti died on way to the hospital.

    Police officials were confused about the possible motive for the murder. “Apparently, it seems to be a terrorist activity but it is too early to say anything about the motive, sectarian or otherwise, behind the murder”, Punjab IGP Jehanzeb Burki told reporters soon after the incident.

    The Punjab PPP leadership, however, did not rule out a political motive, and alleged that the murder of a retired judge might be construed by some as a signal to the judiciary. On the complaint of Mr Bhatti’s son, Mozang police registered a murder case against an unidentified accused.

    A source in the police department quoted Mr Bhatti’s family as accusing unidentified activists of a religious party for involvement in the murder. “After the announcement of the LHC division bench judgment acquitting Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih in a blasphemy case, Mr Arif Iqbal Bhatti had been receiving threatening and abusive calls from some activists of a religious organization,” a member of his family was quoted as saying.

    According to Zahid, the office boy of Justice (retd) Arif Iqbal Bhatti and an eye-witness to the murder incident, the assailant had come early in the morning posing as a client and asking about Mr Bhatti. When told that the lawyer was away at the courts, the man went away but returned after about an hour. Mr Bhatti had arrived in his chambers by then – at about 10.40am. The visitor was led inside to meet him. The assailant then whipped out a pistol and opened fire on the retired judge. He was hit by five bullets. He sustained three injuries in the face and two in the stomach. The assailant reportedly left the office quite calm and composed in front of a number of people. Area police reportedly reached the spot more than 90 minutes after occurrence.

    Mr Bhatti is survived by his widow, a son and two daughters. His funeral prayers are scheduled to be offered at the Nasser Bagh at 10am. The Lahore Bar Association has announced it would observe a strike on Saturday to protest against the murder of Arif Iqbal Bhatti.

    PM GRIEVED: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed shock and grief over the tragic death of Justice (retd) Arif Iqbal Bhatti, adds APP Lauding the services of the late justice, he said that Justice Bhatti was a learned judge of the High Court and his contribution to the rule of law and supremacy of justice would long be remembered. He prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

    BENAZIR SHOCKED:PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto condemned the murder of Justice (retd) Arif Iqbal Bhatti. In her condolence message, Ms Bhutto expressed deep sorrow and grief over the death of Mr Bhatti. She also paid tributes to the services rendered by the deceased.

    The murder of Mr Bhatti was also widely condemned by the legal and political circle. Punjab PPP president Rao Sikandar Iqbal, general-secretary Prof Ijazul Hassan, Lahore president Mian Misbahur Rehman and others – Azizur Rehman Chan, Hafiz Ghulam Mohiyuddin, Malik Hafizur Rehman and Iqbal Sialvi have condemned the murder of Mr Bhatti. People’s Lawyers Forum president Mian Jehangir, secretary-general Shahid Mehmood Bhatti, Lahore High Court Bar Association Vice-president Chaudhry Nazir Ahmad and advocates Ihsan Lillah and S. A. Bokhari also condemned the murder of Mr Bhatti.

  • Sunni clerics denounce Aasia sympathizers, threaten Judges’ lives
    ATAS central leader, Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri said that if Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High Court could be assassinated for acquitting two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, government functionaries supporting Aasia Bibi should not expect to be spared.
    http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2010/11/eye-on-extremism-sunni-clerics-denounce.html
    The Express Tribune
    By Rana Tanveer | November 24, 2010
    LAHORE: Religious clerics have announced sit-in in front of the President’s House if Zardari pardons her while a legal aid organisation appeals for clemency.
    clerics belonging to the Sunni Tehrik and Aalmi Tanzim Ahle Sunnat (ATAS) on Tuesday condemned government officials and religious figures who expressed sympathy for the Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, during a protest in front of the Lahore Press Club.
    The protesters, comprising seminary students and clerics, took out a rally, holding banners and placards, criticising government officials.
    The protesters criticised President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, religious schoolar Allama Javed Ghamdi and Pope Benedict for issuing statements in favour of Aasia Bibi, but Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer remained the focus of their resentment. He had met Aasia at the Sheikhupura jail and committed to take her case to the president.
    Addressing the protesters, ATAS central leader, Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, asked the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu action against the governor for supporting a ‘blasphemer’. Qadri also challenged Ghamdi to debate over the punishment of a blasphemer in Islam.
    Referring to Pope Benedict’s statement about Zardari trying to send Aasia aborad, he warned the president that if such a step were taken, the ATAS would stage a sit-in in front of the President’s House for an indefinite period.
    He announced that the ATAS would hold a protest in front of Governor’s House on Wednesday (today).
    Qadri said that if Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High Court could be assassinated for acquitting two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, government functionaries supporting Aasia Bibi should not expect to be spared.
    Bhatti is believed to have been shot in October 1997 for acquitting the two brothers in March, 1995.
    Other speakers of the Sunni Tehrik and Aalmi Tanzim Ahle Sunnat included Maulana Muhammad Naeem Noori, Sahibzada Syed Mukhtar Ashraf Rizvi, Tahir Qadri, Maulana Muhammad Ali Naqashbandi and Ziaul Mustafa.

  • well,being a muslim i’m nt here 2 justify my love 4 great prophet(SAWW) n my hatred 4 BLASPHEMERS n my agression 4 those who supports blasphemy.IT’S SOMETHING NATURAL of which every muslim experiences.

    Its very easy 2 say some1 KAAFIR,attach a slogan with some1 that he s WAJIB UL QATL OR ultimately KILL some1.
    2 things dependent on each other of which this nation s unfortunately deprived of r LEADERSHIP and TOLERANCE.

    Do worthy efforts n b patient if wnt 2 achieve something big in LIFE.never go 4 shortcuts……..!!!

    Now coming 2 da point,da man who ws killed dis evening ws a MUSLIM.how could u even think he ws against dt law???havent u listen in his interview,he ws against da implementation of dt law so dt iinnocent should nt b punished of which he has done not,and da guilty should not take advantage of insecure implementaion.dis s what our prophet of mercy taught 2 us.there ws clearly nowhere in da talk dt he;
    ws against da apostle of ALLAH or
    ws against da law.

    He ws inshort in da safe implementaion of dt law(da area where limitations arises in prosecution due 2 human intervention)dtsy he said its a human law nt divine law(as far as dt area s concerned)

    Neither i’m supporting him NOR calling him shaheed(shaheed s a respected honour of ISLAM)i’m jst telling da truth 2 da youth who keep on changing their ideals due 2 incomplete knowledge,n call any man on da street like MUMTAZ HUSSAIN QADRI a HERO!!

    WAKE UP U ALL its a political assasination like of bhutto,da man who killed bhutto ws a hero of u all @ dt tym,soon after da DOG’S awful death(ZIA’S) u realize DA REAL HERO(bhutto)……………as per rule of thumb this nation will realize da loss of its ASSets BUT………..Many many years later!!!

  • PILER AND PPC CONDEMN SALMAN TASEER’S MURDER; CALL FOR ARREST OF INDIVIDUALS ISSUING FATWAS AGAINST TASEER, REHMAN AND ASIA BIBI

    The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and the Pakistan Peace Coalition have condemned the brutal murder of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, terming it a wake-up call for the society to the alarming threat of religious fanaticism that is eating the roots of the country.
    In a statement issued on Monday, PILER and the PPC said that Salman Taseer’s tragic murder at the hands of his own security guard to avenge his bold stand on the Blasphemy Laws is not a single-day development. There is a history to it and unfortunately, there is a huge direct and indirect contribution by the state, non state forces, civil society, media, and political parties in promoting this monster and ignoring the repercussions of its creation.
    The state’s official and unofficial policy of projecting religious fanaticism as a means of crafting a national identity and also preparing an army of civilian forces to counter perceived threat from India and the West has led us to a point where our own citizens are dying at the hands of extremist everyday.
    PILER and PPC condemned that over the years, the state has played with religion as a policy tool. Both the military-led governments and the civilian governments have actively or indirectly promoted religion as an instrument to prolong their rule, sometimes pursuing it as a state policy and at other times bowing down under the pressure of the religious forces to follow anti-human rights provisions.
    The current government demonstrated an extremely cowardly behaviour last week when they pleaded the religious parties to call off their bogus strike against amendments in the blasphemy law. In its bid to appease the non-elected and undemocratic religious lobby, the Gillani Government even went to the extent of disowning a bill by its own Party member for amendments in the black laws addressing the blasphemy issue.
    PILER and PPC demanded that those who issued death edicts against Salman Taseer, MNA Sherry Rehman and Asia Bibi must be immediately arrested and tried for harming the life of Pakistan’s citizens. It is the test of the independent judiciary to pursue action against these fatwa-issuing individuals and organisations; it is a serious attempt to create a parallel justice system. The government also needs to enact a law to ban the issuance of edict by the religious lobby.
    PILER and PPC stated that the Federal Shariat Court, addition of Sections 295-B and 295-C in the Blasphemy Laws (prescribing strict punishment for ’insulting’ the Holy Quran and using ’derogatory’ remarks about the Holy Prophet, allowing shameless abuse of these provision), the declaration of Ahmedis as non-Muslims, the insertion of religious section in the passport form, and the curriculum that breeds bigotry and fanaticism are all a result of state’s blatant abuse of religion to promote its own goals. Not only has it negatively influenced our culture, it has also foiled all efforts to promote equal distribution of resources for an equitable society. It is the same Federal Shariat Court that reversed the principle of equitable sharing of natural resources by all, overturning the Land Reforms undertaken by the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Govermment in 1972, in the infamous Farooq Leghari case.
    PILER and PPC noted that a section of the religious lobby has hailed the late Governor’s murder and warned people against attending his funeral; this is shameful and inhuman.
    PILER and PPC urged civil society, media, political parties and the government to recognise religious extremism as a serious threat and take up fight against it as the single biggest agenda. The state of basic rights including right to live is in danger if we move on with life as usual after Mr Taseer’s tragedy. The unofficial license granted to the extremists to hold the nation hostage to their definition of morality means the lives of each one of us is in danger at the hands of these self-appointed guardians of religion.
    PILER and PPC also stated that there is need to hand over the foreign and the national security policies back to the civilian government. In all democracies, these policies are pursued by the elected government and not by the un-elected and unaccountable military establishment, as is the case in Pakistan. All efforts to clamp down on religious extremism will fail if the military, as an independent entity, continues to breed and nurture extremist forces. This policy is creating enemies against Pakistan’s own citizens. The government must demonstrate responsibility towards protecting the rights and the wellbeing of the people of Pakistan, who pay taxes and work hard to run the country.
    PILER and PPC also called for the government to revamp the education curriculum basing it on more tolerant lines, withdrawal of state support to religious institutions and structures and bringing them under state regulation, amendments in the blasphemy laws, disbanding of Federal Shariat Court and separating state from religion at all levels.
    Source: http://www.sacw.net/article1819.html

  • Pakistan : An Idea that has gone horribly wrong

    Jaibans Singh
    Asia Bibi is a poor Christian woman from Ittan Wali, Shiekhpura, Pakistan. In June 2009, she was charged with blasphemy for having made derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In November 2010, the Court of Sheikhpura ruled out false implication and sentenced her to death by hanging. The sentence evoked a strong reaction from the international Christian community and several human rights organisations – to the extent that Pope Benedict XVI prayed for Asia and requested for her release. While Asia Bibi awaits her fate, the issue has already taken a serious toll on the fragile social structure of the Nation. The Pakistan Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has been assassinated, by his own bodyguard, for speaking against the Blasphemy Law and for appealing to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for grant of pardon to Asia Bibi.
    Salman Taseer was an enigmatic personality. Born in a family of affluent intellectuals, he was successful both as a businessman and a politician. Of course, he had more than his fair share of controversies. He was known for his drinking bouts and racy lifestyle, his son Aatish Taseer, begotten from the Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, has written a book “Stranger to History: A son’s journey through Islamic lands”, which does not project his father in a positive light. Taseer was also known to be brash, opinionated and outspoken, his controversial remarks, on twitter, against the Saudi monarch drew a lot of adverse reaction from the Muslim community worldwide. Despite all this, he was a progressive, forward looking leader who wished to see his country tread a path of enlightened development. A few days before his assassination he had stated that Asia Bibi is likely to be pardoned by the President, even at that stage his comments elicited a vitriolic response from the local Imams who openly threatened that people would take the law in their own hands if Bibi was pardoned.
    Salman Taseer forfeited his life on the mantle of his ideals and his progressive vision for his country. This is not the first time that a liberal leader has been killed by fundamentalist forces in Pakistan. In fact choking the voice of sanity has become a norm rather than an exception in the country. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s right hand man was shot twice in the chest on 16th October, 1951 at Rawalpindi by one Saad Akbar Babrak. His murder ushered an era of political instability which ultimately led to a breakdown of democracy and imposition of martial law for long periods of time in the nascent Nation. The next to be killed was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Despite his limitations, he was a modern and secular leader who wanted his country to evolve as a socialist democracy. His successor, the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq systematically undercut all democratic aspirations and brought in a draconian Islamic culture as also the policy of engineering terrorism in the name of Jihad in Kashmir. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on 27th December, 2007 was yet another example of the extremist fundamentalist credentials that are enveloping in the country. The al Queda, which is surviving due to support from Pakistan, took responsibility for the killing which was supposedly carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was also said to be involved.
    Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, Salman Taseer’s assassin who has been taken into custody has confessed that he shot Taseer because of the latter’s stand on the Blasphemy Laws. This cannot be taken on face value because a security guard would probably not hold such strong political views that lead to the shooting of a Governor. There is every possibility that the assassin has been indoctrinated on the path of Jihad in one of the numerous Madrassas operating in Pakistan. At this stage when the government has announced three days of national mourning the Mullahs of Pakistan have passed edicts calling upon all Muslims to celebrate the death of the Governor. This is happening right under the nose of the Pakistani Government
    Political assassinations are just one tool that the Islamic fundamentalists are using to establish their writ in Pakistan. Sustained communal violence is yet another significant card that is being played liberally. Those Muslims who chose to leave India to become a part of the Pakistani experience are still termed as “Mohajirs” and are forced to live as minorities. The non-Wahabi population of the country is constantly subjected to violence and atrocity. Votaries of different Muslim sects are subjected to suicide bombings, Ahmadiyya’s praying at their Mosque’s are attacked by terrorists, Hanafi-Barelvi-Sufi’s are massacred for the crime of taking out a procession. Mullahs are running berserk declaring anyone and everyone who meets their fancy a “Kafir” for having deviated from some tenet of Islam or the other. The Blasphemy Law is being blatantly misused for personal and sectarian gains and also to spread a culture of religious intolerance that suits the Mullahs. The government of Pakistan stands as a mute spectator to this virtual breakdown of civilisational norms and the writ of the State.
    The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was known for his secular credentials. All through his struggle for getting a separate Nation for Muslims he insisted that the Nation would welcome in its fold people of all religions, castes and creeds. When Pakistan came into being he reiterated his secular commitment in the newly formed Nations Constituent Assembly on 11th August, 1947 where he said, “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed…that has nothing to do with the business of the state. You are free, free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.” Today Jinnah’s vision has been swept completely under the carpet and the creation of Pakistan has now become an idea that has gone horribly wrong.
    http://php.statetimes.in/news/2011/01/07/pakistan-an-idea-that-has-gone-horribly-wrong/

  • I enjoy what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and reporting! Keep up the very good works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

  • Justice Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti Shaheed was Killed on October 10,1997 Because of acquitting two Christians Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih in Blaspheomy Case on the Lack of Evidence bravely,While Thousands of Militants were Protesting On Mall Road,
    Surounded Lahore High Court.They were Threatned Division Bench,if acquitted acused Christians,We will Kill Judges.Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti was Senior Judge of This
    D.B.He Wrote thid Judgement Bravely Without any Fear.He Was Deserving Nobel and
    Bravery Award.Neither Federal Government nor Judiciary supported Financial/Moral.Mr Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister and Mr Shahbaz Sharif was
    Chief Minister Punjab at the time of brutal Murder of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti.
    Sajjad Bhatti
    Advocate Supreme Court Of Pakistan
    001.936.202.7075.M
    s.bhatti@usa.com

  • For the record, Ahmed Sher Khan Niazi, the killer of Justice Bhatti was a Barelvi, not a Sipah Sahaba member. He prayed at Datta Darbar before and after the killing. Please check this:
    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dOArBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95#v=onepage&q=ahmad%20sher&f=false

    Barelvi clerics declared him a “Ghazi” and he has been a celebrity at different Barelvi gatherings.

    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=418337574970884&permPage=1
    غازی احمد شیر خان نیازی کی رہائی پر جامع مسجد رحمتہ للعالمین مرکز فدایان ختم نبوت میں سجائی گئی بزم