Original Articles

Appeal for a victim of the blasphemy law

This letter in Daily Times is an appeal for the release of Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza who has been in detention since June 1999 after he was accused of blasphemy for writing an academic book on Islam:

Human rights violation

Sir: I would like to draw your attention towards the severe violation of human rights in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir. My friend’s father, Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza, was arrested under Section 295-C (Blasphemy Law) in Mirpur in June 1999. The case was filed against him nearly six years ago by a cleric with the help of some fundamentalist groups on the false charges of writing a book, Status of Prophethood: Concept of Islam and Jahilliat. Professor Mirza is accused of blasphemy. The aforementioned book has been declared as correct in all respects by more than 100 theologians and scholars of the Muslim world. Some of these scholars include the Imam of Ka’aba and scholars of the Muslim World League, Rabita Alam-i-Islami.

The prosecution could not produce more than one witness in this case, whereas more than 20 prominent theologians and scholars have appeared in court as witnesses in support of Professor Mirza’s case. In spite of all this, Professor Mirza has not been granted bail. Furthermore, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer nine months ago. After a major operation and chemotherapy, doctors have advised a six-week course of radiotherapy. However, this facility is not available at the hospital where Professor Mirza was admitted in Mirpur. To date there has been a delay of 12 weeks in crucial life-saving therapy and yet no decision for allowing further treatment has been made by the administration.

The case proceedings are on hold due to Professor Mirza’s illness. The sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan is the death penalty. Either way his fate is sealed.

I request President Zardari, the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and all other authorities concerned to end this case as soon as possible to save the life of an innocent man.
ASADULLAH
Karachi

Here is a more detailed appeal from 2004 by Amnesty International for the same prisoner. Some key points from this report:

1. The book for which Professor Mirza was accused of blasphemy for has been cleared by various Islamic authorities and has even been reprinted by the government of Pakistan proving that the original accusation of blasphemy by a local cleric was completely false. And yet almost 11 years later, Professor Mirza is still in jail.

2. His bail application has been rejected by the Session court in Mirpur in August 1999, by the Shariah Court and by the Supreme Court in 2004.

3. Professor Mirza has been diagnosed with stomach cancer while under detention and when his family visited him in the hospital he was chained to the hospital bed for two weeks.

4. Amnesty International is calling for all charges to be dropped against him.

About the author

Laila Ebadi

11 Comments

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  • Thank you for writing on this very important topic.

    Pakistani journalists (with a very few exceptions) will never write on this topic. The public in the main remains influenced by the oppressive and hate based ideology and propaganda of Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (AMTKN) and other sectarian and terrorist organisations.

    We appeal to the Government of Pakistan as well to the governments of other countries to declare Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (AMTKN) as a terrorist organisation. The organisation must be banned, its offices closed down, and literature confiscated. Its leaders must be given exemplary punishment in order to discourage religious harassment and hate speech in Pakistan and elsewhere.

    We also demand that the Government of Pakistan must abolish the barbaric and discriminatory Blasphemy laws which are a legacy of General Zia-ul-Haq.

    All victims of the blasphemy law in Pakistan (most of them Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus etc) must be released immediately and the cases against them must be quashed.

  • I support this appeal.

    Here is a letter written by the said Professor’s wife (from Dawn, 27 March 2005). A military general did not pay attention to this letter. Will our civilian president pay any heed?

    Human rights violation

    I INVITE your attention towards the severe violation of human rights in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir. My husband Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza was arrested under section 295-C (blasphemy law), in Mirpur in June 1999. The case was filed against him nearly six years ago by a cleric with the help of some fundamentalist groups, on the false charges of writing a book “Status of prophethood (concept of Islam & Jahilliat)”. Prof Mirza is accused of blasphemy. The aforementioned book has been declared as correct in all respect by more than 100 theologians and scholars of the Muslim world. Some of these scholars include the Imam of Kabah and scholars of the Muslim World League, Rabita Alam-i-Islami.

    The prosecution could not produce more than one witness in this case. Whereas we have more than 20 prominent theologians and scholars who have appeared in court as witnesses in support of our case.

    In spite of all this, my husband has not been granted bail. Furthermore, he is now suffering from stomach cancer which was diagnosed nine months ago. After a major operation and chemotherapy, doctors have advised a six-week course of radiotherapy, which should have commenced in December 2004. This facility however is not available in the hospital where Professor Mirza is admitted in Mirpur. Being in police custody, he is not being admitted to the hospital where radiotherapy can be done.

    To date there has been a delay of 12 weeks in crucial life-saving therapy and yet no decision for allowing further treatment has been made by the administration.

    The case proceedings are on hold due to the illness of my husband. The sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan is the death penalty. Either way his fate is sealed. We only hope and pray that we have the opportunity to give him the care he deserves and cherish every moment he is left with, spending with his family and friends in his own home.

    I request President Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharraf, the government of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and all other authorities concerned to end this case as soon as possible to save the life of an innocent man.

    SAKINA TASNEEM MIRZA
    Mirpur, Azad Kashmir

    http://www.dawn.com/2005/03/27/letted.htm

  • Yet another example of how blasphemy law is used in Pakistan to destroy one life. There is a very strong need to revise this law if we are to progress as a tolerant nation.

  • As a citizen I extend my support for the immediate release of Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza, the blasphemy laws are used a tool to malign and defame opponents. This is intellectual suppression by the state and clear violations of free speech. The prosecution too is overwhelmed by the populist views and is biased in such cases.
    The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was subjected to derogatory comments and yet he never sought revenge. An innocent citizen is being prosecuted at the behest of clergy!

  • This indeed is the most painful example of state owned religious tyranny….
    President. Zardari!!! Can U hear us…..??
    Do we need another decade for removing such laws from the constitution….
    @Aitezaz Ehsan
    Can U hear us….can U compose another poem on the importance of Adal….

  • Every human has rights and we must protect them. We must stand againt the atrocities and the way the Taliban behead and burn people. This is a violation to the human rights in the country. It is important that we condemn such acts and not let our community become immune to it.

  • The minorities in Pakistan are treated as a third grade citizen, they presence in government offices is low; their enrollment in Armed forces is even lower. Moreover in our public schools the subject of Islamiat is compulsory for minorities which is an infringement of their rights.