Pakistan’s blasphemy laws misused: Daily

February 1st, 2012 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 1 (IANS) Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are not only being misused as a “weapon against minorities” but also being used to settle personal scores amongst Muslims or grab property, said a leading daily.

An editorial in the Dawn Wednesday said: “The list of those charged or accused under the country’s questionable blasphemy laws - that too on the flimsiest of pretexts - is far too long.”

Citing an example, it said that Soofi Mohammad Ishaq, sentenced to death by a judge in Jhelum Monday in a blasphemy case, is another addition to that unenviable list.

Ishaq, a cleric settled in the US, returned to Punjab province in 2009. The custodian of a shrine, he received a rousing reception from his followers. However, some people apparently felt that his disciples were overzealous in their adulation and considered ‘bowing’ before the cleric ‘blasphemous’.

“At this point, we cannot but wonder whether the accusation of blasphemy was driven by ulterior motives, as is usually the case,” said the editorial.

A bid to reform the country’s blasphemy law, and support for a Christian woman sentenced to death, last year led to the deaths of two prominent politicians — Punjab governor Salman Taseer by his own bodyguard, and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law mandates the death penalty.

The editorial said: “Along with their misuse as a weapon against minorities, the blasphemy laws are used by Muslims against Muslims to settle personal scores or grab property.”

“With growing polarisation in society, accusations of blasphemy are also being made to persecute followers of ‘rival’ schools of thought within Islam. Criticism of these laws, even mere talk of reforming them let alone their repeal, invites emotional responses, violence or even death,” it added.

While opposing the death penalty, the editorial felt that “laws such as these - which are open to abuse and have brought much opprobrium to Pakistan domestically as well as internationally - at the least need to have iron-clad legal provisos that prevent their misuse”.

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