Yasser Latif Hamdani @theRealYLH
MAY 3, 2021
Most of my adult life has been spent trying to explain to Pakistanis a fundamental truth: If you do not return to Jinnah, there can be no progress and no moral compass. Jinnah is often accused – by our fashionable chattering class who haven’t bother to read any archival material – of using religion. The facts are quite to the contrary. Religion was used against Jinnah. Congress unleashed a horde of Islamic religious parties against Jinnah, not the least of which was Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, which called Jinnah Kafir-e-Azam for refusing to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim. There was the Jamaat-e-Islami, which said that the idea of Pakistan under Jinnah was as oxymoronic as a “chaste prostitute”. Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind, that long-term ally of Gandhi and Congress, was not any better. They attacked Jinnah for his secularism and for having Christians and Ahmadis on Dawn’s editorial board. So let us be clear that it was not Jinnah who used religion. His opponents did. He stood indefatigably for the rights of minorities in India and then Pakistan. If we are to become a civilised and progressive state we must follow his lead.
Friday last marked another day of sad realisation about what the world thinks about us. I daresay that it is because we have lost our moral compass and become precisely the “theocratic state run by priests with a divine mission” that Jinnah had warned against. The European Parliament passed a resolution decrying Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as being inhumane and contrary to Pakistan’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is the main condition for Pakistan’s inclusion in the GSP+ programme which allows Pakistan preferential treat in exports especially in textiles. The resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority. The resolution states:
Paragraph 8: Is concerned by the fact that blasphemy laws in Pakistan are often abused to make false accusations serving various incentives, including settling personal disputes or seeking economic gain; calls on the Government of Pakistan, therefore, to take due heed of this and to repeal the blasphemy laws accordingly; strongly rejects the reported statement by Pakistan’s Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Khan, calling for people who commit blasphemy to be beheaded.
There is no punishment for a non-Muslim committing blasphemy at all. For Muslims, it means disbelief and therefore he too is a non-Muslim. Therefore there is no punishment for blasphemy sanctioned by Islam
Can you imagine that in the 21st Century a government minister, of parliamentary affairs no less, is calling for the beheading of people? Let us first be very clear: Blasphemy laws are not Islamic. I have written about this in detail but I will write it again. Any scholar of Hanafi School of Jurisprudence knows that there is no concept of “sar tan se juda” in Islam. There is no punishment for a non-Muslim committing blasphemy at all. For Muslims, it means disbelief and therefore he too is a non-Muslim. Therefore there is no punishment for blasphemy sanctioned by Islam. At best there can be a tazeer punishment and not capital punishment. If you must have capital punishment it should be be a Hadd crime where the standard of evidence should be based on Tazkia tul Shahood. But why the insecurity? Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s role in history is undisputed. There more than 1 billion people who follow his creed today and his name is one of the most common names on Earth.
The resolution goes on to say:
Paragraph 12: Calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible.
The eligibility of Pakistan for the GSP+ status is, as aforesaid, on the line. Now no doubt that there will be people like Ali Mohammad Khan who will say that no sacrifice is enough in this cause. Well sorry to break it you: The Holy Prophet (PBUH) does not need your sacrifices. His good name cannot be sullied try as some might. What you are doing by your actions, calling for beheadings and the like, is not just hurting Pakistan but making Islam look bad. The real blasphemy is the so-called blasphemy law. Repeal this un-Islamic law.
Finally we have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with its statement in response to the EU resolution: “Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media and independent judiciary, which remains fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination.” Whoever wrote this has a bright career ahead of them in stand up comedy. Have you heard of Ahmadis? You do not even let them vote or profess and propagate their faith, constitutional rights under the constitution you are sworn to protect. They are arrested for saying Salam and reading the Quran. Their “places of worship” are routinely desecrated and ransacked often by police officials. Christians are routinely charged with blasphemy and attacked by the mobs. Hindu girls are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. So where is this Pakistan you speak of because we certainly don’t live in it. Have some shame at long last. This is the holy month of Ramazan. You should at least refrain from lying in this month, if you cannot help yourselves year round.
The writer is a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and the author of the book Jinnah A Life published by Pan Macmillan