The religious fanatics' efforts to silence the voices of reason in Pakistan are leaving an evil impact. Some peopple are being killed, others are forced to leave the country and many others are left to suffer at the mercy of highly skilled and resourceful mercenaries.
The cycle of fear was recently spurred by religious groups after a lower court condemned a Christian lady named Aasia Bibi to death, for committing “blasphemy”, i.e. desecrating persona of the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Mohammed (PBUH). Some people argue that there was immense political pressure from religious groups on the police and the courts to punish the alleged blasphemer.
Several rights based groups, human rights activists, religious scholars, and some individuals within the “secular” parties did not see eye-to-eye with the court’s verdict and demanded exoneration of the condemned woman.
One of the most vocal advocates of Asia Bibi’s exoneration from the blasphemy charges was the assasinated governor of the Punjab Province, Salman Taseer. He paid in blood for ‘supporting the blasphemer’. A blood thirsty guard of the governor emptied his official gun on him at a busy street in the capital city, Islamabad. The murderer, known by the name of Qadri, later said that he killed the governor because he was trying to repeal the blasphemy law and supporting a ‘blasphemer’. To the shock of millions of people, a group of religious minded lawyers (actually members of a politically religious group) showered Qadri with flowers, for ‘taking revenge from the blasphemer’.
Another vocal supporter of review of the blasphemy law, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, who is a highly respected religious scholar, had to leave the country because of the threats posed to him and his family by the militant and non-militant religious groups, alike. In a televised interview the revered scholar said that he was being threatened with dire consequences (read murder) for his relatively moderate and rational stances on various issues, including the controversial blasphemy law. “I am not afraid of death”, Ghamidi told the TV anchor, “but I feel that my presence in the country is likely to endanger my family and neighbors also”, he said.
Latest in the series of blasphemy related violence is the murder of Pakistan’s only Christian Federal Minister, Shehbaz Bhatti. As member of the Christian community - who are one of the victims of false blasphemy charges, as well as in capacity of Minister for Minority Affairs, Bhatti had been openly advocating the cause of Aasia Bibi’s exoneration. He had also been demanding stoppage to misuse of the blasphemy law by vested interests, for settling family and business disputes.
Shehbaz Bhatti was killed yesterday in broad daylight as he came out of his mother’s house located in the I-8/3 Sector of Islamabad, the federal capital. The assailants spared Bhatti’s niece and his driver, but sprayed him with several bullets. The driver tried to rush Bhatti to a hospital but he succumbed to his fatal injuries on the way.
The press reports of March 3, 2011 have quoted intelligence agencies saying that there is threat to the life of legislator Sherry, Pakistan’s former Information Minister and a veteran journalist. She was the one who presented a personal bill in Pakistan’s National Assembly, seeking amendments in the Law, promulgated by a military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, in the mid 1980s.
People are astonished to see inability of the government to protect its high level functionaries, including the Governor of the Punjab and a Federal Minister belonging to the minority Christian community of Pakistan.
The level of insecurity has increased to very high levels and freedom of thought and expression, as protected by the Constitution of 1973, are being harshly crippled with impunity by religious fanatics and zealots, while the state keeps watching as a bystander.
The most disturbing angle of the entire vicious cycle of violence triggered by myopic and ignorant interpretation of the religious scripture, as well as accounts of history, is that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity claim to be staunchest adherents of Islam, the religion of peace.
The hate mongers need to understand that there was no blasphemy law in the times of the holy prophet. The(PBUH) was a living model of tolerance and kindness, who stood for rights of the oppressed and promoted the concept of peace, brotherhood, forgiveness, human integrity and humanity, in the darkest years of Arabian history.
Committing violence and supporting or promoting murder in the name of protecting sanctity of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), to me, is the biggest of all blasphemies, ever committed, by anyone.