Proposed amendments to the blasphemy law


Will lawmakers do the right thing?

Mashal Khan was lynched by his fellow students, five bloggers were kidnapped and tortured only to be released a few weeks later as a result of public outcry over their disappearance, a Christian couple was burned alive in a brick kiln – their legs broken prior to incineration so that they couldn’t escape the charged mob that lynched them. In all these incidents and many more like them the victims were wrongly accused of blasphemy – fabricated and amplified accusations fueled by personal enmity, nothing else.

It was in fact the bloggers case that prompted the controversial IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui to order an amendment in the law that would discourage the misuse of the blasphemy law. As a result the proposed amendment fixes the same penalties on a wrongful blasphemy accuser that would be placed on a person convicted of blasphemy itself. The Interior Ministry presented a new draft of these amendments to the IHC after a previous one was deemed too lenient towards the accuser.

This is a welcome step towards finally giving much needed context to the blasphemy law that more of often than not is misused to kill or arrest innocent people. The amendment however needs to be tabled and pass in the Senate and National Assembly for it to become law and that is where this move to amend the law may falter. Any debate over the blasphemy law is considered political suicide. One just has to take to look at the nightmarish episode at Faizabad a few months back as a result of an alleged attempt at omitting a provision regarding the finality of Prophethood clause in the Election Bill 2017 to understand how such sensitive issues can quickly get out of hand.

Resultantly it seems unlikely that it being election year many parliamentarians will pay much attention to this important debate and necessary amendment in the blasphemy law and there lies the problem – doing the right thing is too risky so ignoring the problem and directing efforts towards re-election is priority number one.