Living in fear

Living in fear

Editorial Published November 27, 2021 

THE registration of a blasphemy case against four members of a family from a village on the outskirts of Lahore has once again brought into focus the extensive misuse of the law to settle personal scores and grab victims’ property or attack their beliefs. The latest case registered on the complaint of a local prayer leader, who was approached by a family member more than a week ago to make a public announcement about the funeral of a Christian neighbour, also underscores the police’s tendency to register a case without investigation into allegations in order to keep the situation under control. Although the exact figures are not available, at least 1,855 people were booked under the blasphemy law between 1987 and 2020. This includes formal charges as well as allegations. The actual number of victims, however, is believed to be much higher. Muslims (47.9pc) represent the largest faith identity accused of or charged with blasphemy followed by Ahmadis (33.3pc), Christians (14.5pc), Hindus (1.8pc) and others (2.4pc).

That the enactment of the blasphemy law in its present form by the Zia regime and its unchecked misuse makes non-Muslims live in an atmosphere of unending fear is an understatement. The arbitrary application of the law has squeezed the space for enlightened debate on issues related to religion, and deepened extremism and bigotry in society. We have seen people falsely convicted, lynched, shot and knifed to death, and mob attacks on entire communities merely on the suspicion of blasphemy, with most culprits getting away scot-free. The murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer by a member of his security detail in 2011 for supporting changes in the law to stop its misuse is justly referred to as a watershed in the country’s history. The abuse of the law against the innocent, as pointed out by the Supreme Court, is impossible to stop in the absence of “adequate safeguards against [its] misapplication or misuse … by motivated persons”. It’s time for politicians to stand up to defend the vulnerable from the law’s misuse.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2021

source https://www.dawn.com/news/1660509/living-in-fear

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.