A detailed judgement passed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that calling for reforms to Pakistan’s controversial Blasphemy Laws was not objectionable.
The report explicitly stated:
“Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons.”
“If Islam comes down heavily upon commission of blasphemy then Islam is also very tough against those who level false allegations about a crime” the verdict stated, adding that the definition of “blasphemy” under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code may need to be amended to bring it closer to the true concept of blasphemy
The judgement followed the October 7 decision made by a three member panel to restore the capital sentence awarded by an Anti-Terrorism Court to Malik Mohammad Mumtaz Qadri. The Elite Force commando had assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer outside his residence in Islamabad on Jan 4, 2011 — for allegedly committing blasphemy. The Oct 7 decision was made by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws actually draw from the Indian Penal code of 1860, created by the British colonial rulers of the time. The original laws included a list of crimes which were composed of -among other things- disturbing a religious assembly, trespassing on burial grounds, insulting religious beliefs and intentionally destroying or desecrating a place or an object of worship. These laws also created a punishment, ranging from 1-10 years in jail, with or without a fine. Pakistan inherited these laws when the country was created in 1947 and several clauses were added between 1980-1986, which was during the regime of General Zia ul Haq. These added clauses included the “crimes” of desecrating the Quran and insulting the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
According to the Supreme Court’s decision, the crux of the issue was not the alleged insult of a religious figure, but the justification of a civilian – or any individual not in that position of authority – to decide to take the law into his/her own hands and kill the alleged offender. The judgement cited amendments in the Hudood laws to point out that there has to be an ongoing effort to keep the laws of the land updated to both meet emerging challenges and discourage misuse of the existing laws.