CLAAS concerned over CII recommendation to the Senate Committee
The Pakistan Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights is considering preventing the misuse of the blasphemy law. Its chairwoman Senator Nasreen Jalil has said that innocent people have been wrongly accused of blasphemy and suffered.
In response the Ministry of Interior wrote that a thorough consultation process should take place involving stakeholders from provincial governments, the ministries of religious affairs, law and justice and information, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), ulema councils and law enforcement agencies.
Nasir Saeed, director CLAAS-UK said it is good news that once again the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights is considering preventing the continuous misuse of the blasphemy law as it is used widely to settle personal scores with others.
Changes to this law are long overdue and minorities and civil society has a long-standing demand to reform the blasphemy law or at last prevent its misuse. Though Muslims and non-Muslim suffer alike, Christians are the main target. Their churches are attacked, their properties are set on fire, they are imprisoned arbitrarily and even burned alive.
Even the international community has voiced its concern over the repeated misuse the of the blasphemy law. Recently members of the European Parliament and the US urged Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy law. But unfortunately Pakistani politicians’ inadvertence has made this matter very sensitive and now repeal of the law or amending this law seems almost impossible.
Unfortunately, at the same time the CII (Council for Islamic Ideology) has also recommended that blasphemy cases should be sent to the district shariah courts instead of the session courts, and that provincial shariah courts should be strengthened. It seems the CII promoting its agenda to promote the sharia in the country.
Shariah courts were established during the General Zia ul Haque’s government in relation to Islamising society, and the country’s law.
Pakistani Ulemas and extremist groups have for a long time been demanding that blasphemy cases be send to shariah courts. Presently blasphemy cases are tried under the Pakistan penal code (criminal law) in civilian courts, but if the CII’s recommendations are accepted then these cases will be tried under Islamic shariah law called Hudd (limit- fixed punishment), which means shariah courts will not be allowed to increase or decrease the punishments, they will have to follow the Islamic justice system and have to comply with the Islamic jurisprudence, where minorities will have very little defense and will become more vulnerable.
There are also other complications, like a non-Muslim’s witness is not admissible in Shariah courts and if in any case it has to be, then it will only be given half the weight of a Muslim witness’s.
Mr Saeed said: “Also, at present any lawyer can represent anyone charged under blasphemy law in civilian courts, while the majority of cases are dealt with by Christian lawyers. But if the Senate Committee approves the CII’s recommendations and blasphemy cases begin going to the shariah courts, then it will be a difficult situation especially as Christian lawyers won’t be able to represent their Christian clients in the shariah courts. This is because according to my knowledge they lack expertise in sharia law, while Muslims lawyers are always hesitant to represent those in the courts who are charged with blasphemy.
“It is therefore it is time for the international community to double its efforts for the repeal the blasphemy law and raise it concern with the Pakistani government over this present situation.
“Blasphemy cases being heard in shariah courts would only cause more grief for those who are already victim to this law being misused. “