Blasphemy law will definitely be amended: Sherry


KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari has said at least thrice on record that blasphemy laws would be amended regardless of any opposition to the move, former federal information minister Sherry Rehman said on Monday.
She was speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, called by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), primarily to protest the abuse of the blasphemy laws to arrest a doctor in Hyderabad.
On Friday, Dr Naushad Valiani had an altercation with a medical representative identified as Muhammad Faizan, after which he threw the latter’s visiting card into the dustbin. Enraged, Faizan came back on Saturday with other medical representatives and members of the Sunni Tehreek, and declared that the doctor had committed an act of blasphemy by chucking his card that had the word ‘Muhammad’ printed on it.
The mob beat the doctor up, and called the police, who arrested Dr Valiani and filed an FIR against him for blasphemy.
“Anti-blasphemy laws exist in many others countries as well, but nowhere else are they as vague and open to abuse as they are in Pakistan,” Rehman said.
Criminal trials, she said, require proof for two aspects of the crime: actus reus (the act of committing the crime) and mens rea (premeditation or intent).
In their current form, the blasphemy laws of Pakistan ignore the requirement of proof of mens rea and they need to be amended, she added.
The former minister said that those who are insisting that amendments in the blasphemy laws are anti-Islam need to understand that the amendments that have been tabled to actually “protect Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” rather than “leaving his name open to ridicule like the laws currently do”.
“You cannot hoist a manmade law – one promulgated by a dictator – upon us and claim that it is a divine law. There is no death sentence for blasphemy in Islam.
Those who claim otherwise need to provide proof to back their rhetoric.” Rehman said that there is no ‘Brahminism’ in Islam, and if our clerics think that they are the only ones entitled to interpret our religion for us, we should abolish all parliaments and let them run the country. “People have always voted for liberal parties, which makes public opinion regarding these issues extremely clear.”
Iqbal Haider of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned Muhammad Faizan for “abusing the name of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and claiming equivalence to the holy Prophet (pbuh)”. He demanded that an FIR be lodged against Faizan instead of Dr Valiani.
Towards the end of the press conference, an argument erupted between journalists when one of them raised a pointless question about whether the PMA would demand that “other laws, which are abused, should also be abolished”.
While PMA representatives replied in the affirmative and clarified that they could not comment directly on matters of policy, another journalist stood up and told the questioner off. “We are speaking of the blasphemy laws at the moment because they have been abused in this particular case,” he said. “What’s the point of dragging other issues into this? Are you trying to justify this abuse of the law by deflecting attention elsewhere?”