Righting a colossal wrong


Finally, a judgment on blasphemy law


Necessary amendments were not introduced in the defective blasphemy law because of the spinelessness of successive administrations. Despite repeated demands by human rights groups, the elected governments would not do the job fearing that religious parties would use this to stir up a hornet’s nest. Musharraf, who called himself a moderate and wanted to be considered a liberal, was best suited to bring the necessary changes as being a usurper he was accountable to none. He also enjoyed the full support of the army and the ISI. Exigencies of power politics, however, led him to seek allies in the religious parties who were deadly opposed to any modification in the law. The failing on the part of the civil and military governments has caused a lot of suffering to hundreds of innocent people who were wrongly indicted, and their families.

The critics of the law who maintained that it was used to settle scores with enemies, grab other people’s properties and has promoted religious intolerance and lawlessness are vindicated by the Supreme Court judgment. The court has further maintained that allowing individuals to pass judgments on others and then implement these judgments themselves is tantamount to promoting vigilantism. The rule of law requires lodging complaints with the police and allowing the courts to judge the case on the basis of evidence. The court ordered the Inspector General of Police, Punjab, to ensure that cases registered under the blasphemy law are entrusted to a team of at least two gazzetted Investigating Officers (IOs), preferably those conversant with the Islamic jurisprudence. They should seek the help of a scholar of known reputation and integrity if needed.

The government has to pick up courage to introduce the necessary amendments in blasphemy law. It has to take firm action against those who instigate people to indulge in lawlessness. The government should also review all constitutional amendments which militate against the basic rights of the citizens.