Ishaq Dar rules out change in blasphemy law


Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Saturday said there would be no change in the blasphemy law, as Pakistan came into being in the name of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). “Pakistan was the only country whose foundation was laid on Islam and Kalma Tayyaba,” he added.

Addressing the ‘Khatam-e-Nabuwat Conference’, organised by the custodians of Golra Sharif shrine here, he said, “We can sacrifice our lives, wealth and everything we possess for the dignity and respect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”

The minister appreciated the custodian of the Golra shrine for organising the conference following the footsteps of his forefathers.

The valiant show of support for the blasphemy law is rather strange coming from the finance minister whose ministry has nothing to do with lawmaking, human rights issues and issues of sensitive nature.

It is pertinent to mention here that at least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Centre for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 – many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up one per cent of the population. Critics say the laws are often used to settle personal scores, and pressure for convictions is often applied on police and courts from religious groups and lawyers dedicated to pushing the harshest blasphemy punishments.

In 2011, the then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own police security guard after he demanded reform of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Many Pakistanis hailed Taseer’s killer, who was convicted and executed, as a hero, and more than 100,000 attended his funeral.

A Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under blasphemy laws led to death threats against the son of Salmaan Taseer.

Shaan Taseer said on January 2 that he had received “very credible death threats” from supporters of those who inspired his father’s killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri. “They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri’s photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadris waiting for me,” he told agencies on Jan 2.

According to reports, one out of five disappeared Pakistani activists has been released today and is back with his family, and another one has made contact with his relatives, three weeks after the men first went missing.

Since their abduction, the five men have been repeatedly accused on social media, and in some mainstream outlets, of committing blasphemy, a crime that carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

The families of all five activists deny the blasphemy allegations.

Some of the rights activists calling for the release of the disappeared men were also later accused of blasphemy.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Thursday banned Amir Liaquat’s programme ‘Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga’ on Bol News.

Liaquat recently came under fire on social media after he levelled allegations of blasphemy against ‘disappeared’ civil society activists and bloggers on his programme.

Following the incident, lawyer Jibran Nasir filed a complaint with PEMRA accusing Liaquat of allegedly running a defamatory and life-threatening campaign against him.

Separately, Rawalpindi police registered a case against Aamir Liaquat under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for indulging in hate speech and threatening the life of Jibran Nasir.

The complainant claimed that Liaquat levelled allegations of blasphemy against him and the five disappeared activists, while glorifying the abduction of the missing activists.