"Pak's Blasphemy Law gives state-backed stamp of approval to intolerance": Editorial

Islamabad, Nov 16 (ANI): Religious minorities in Pakistan live in the most adversarial of circumstances, as the Blasphemy Law, a draconian law promulgated by General Zia ul Haq, hangs over their heads like the sword of Damocles, an editorial in a Pakistani newspaper has said.

"It is a shame that General Zia's legacy has not been reversed despite the passage of several decades. With laws like this on our statute books, what kind of message are we giving to the world? In the comity of nations, we do not stand a chance to be dubbed 'civilised' due to such laws," said the Daily Times editorial.

It referred to two cases- one being the latest blasphemy case involving a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death by a local court, and another being that of a 22-year-old boy- Imran Latif- who was shot dead near his home even though the blasphemy charges against him had not been proved and he was released on bail.

"Instead of catching the culprits or denouncing the murder, the investigating officer pronounced: "No Muslim tolerates a man who commits blasphemous acts". If a law enforcer can justify a murder on this pretext, it means that we are officially sanctioning a free hand to murderers," the editorial noted.

"When our policemen pass such intolerant statements, we should not expect much from the bigots present in every nook and corner of this (un)blessed land. The Blasphemy Law gives a state-backed stamp of approval to intolerance," it added.

The editorial pointed out that most people accused of blasphemy "never committed the act but were charged by people with ulterior motives like a property dispute, personal vendetta, etc. Sadly, this is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials in the US in the 17th century."

It observed that both "military and civilian governments have been afraid of repealing the Blasphemy Law as they fear a backlash from the religious zealots. The only way to deal with this now is if the people unite and stand up for their just rights."

"We need a people's movement asking for a reversal of not just this law but also many others, including the Hudood Ordinance. If the people do not raise their voice, they would be left in a continuing state of being granted no rights," it added. (ANI)

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