The need to introduce ‘safeguards’ in the blasphemy law | Pakistan Today

The need to introduce ‘safeguards’ in the blasphemy law

Part of the solution or part of the problem?

The students who lynched Mashal Khan are not the only criminals, but those in power who tried to normalise the culture of targeting people after declaring them blasphemers and the media personalities who issued decrees of murders against ‘blasphemers’ in the wake of abduction of five social media activists, are equally guilty of the cold blooded murder

Mashal Khan’s lynching brought back the discussion about blasphemy law to the surface, with the National Assembly calling for amendments to the law in order to help prevent its misuse. The leadership of the country needs a great deal of soul-searching to find out what exactly led to the sheer brutality that was on display in Abdul Wali Khan University. It is not a hidden fact that blasphemy law has always been used as a tool to settle personal scores and target minority communities of the country, but the leaders have always chosen to turn a blind eye to the issue.

It was the duty of the government to tell people it is not okay to take the law into their own hands and act as judge, jury and executioner; but the events that took place a few months ago showed the government instead wants to empower those who misuse the blasphemy law. The government failed to learn from its mistake of appeasing the extremist segment of the country.

Following a decision of Islamabad High Court against blasphemous content on social media, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) issued a public message where it asked people to report any blasphemous activity that they find on social media platforms. Many analysts argued that the decision to give public the license to decide what is and isn’t blasphemous will lead to further violence and mob justice — and they were right. The students who lynched Mashal Khan for ‘online blasphemy’ are not the only criminals, but those in power who tried to normalise the culture of targeting people after declaring them blasphemers and the media personalities who issued decrees of murders against ‘blasphemers’ in the wake of abduction of five social media activists, are equally guilty of the cold blooded murder.

Mashal Khan’s murder should be enough for the government to change its approach of tolerance towards extremist groups. The mindset that was at work in Mardan is backed by some of our political leaders and media persons. It is time we boycott all those who support or justify mob justice

A video that surfaced a few days after the incident showed a local leader from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) asking people not to disclose the killers’ names or else they would also be declared blasphemers. Then there are allegations that one of the people among the mob was an office holder of Awami National Party (ANP)’s student wing. Political parties need to clarify their positions and disown the elements who instigated the violence and planned the murder. Furthermore, there have been allegations against the university administration of instigating the students against Mashal Khan because he used to criticise their policies on media. Every angle of the case needs to be investigated separately so the actual perpetrators are not able to escape punishment.

It is about time we demanded the religious clerics to show clarity on the issue and state that Islam does not condone mob justice. Political leaders and religious scholars need to collaborate in order to find a way out of this mess. This madness needs to be stopped now or else the situation will get uglier. A de-radicalisation plan is needed immediately and the government should start its implementation from educational institutions. Military operations against terrorists are of no use if we don’t act against the extremist mindset. Mashal Khan’s murder should be enough for the government to change its approach of tolerance towards extremist groups. The mindset that was at work in Mardan is backed by some of our political leaders and media persons. It is time we boycott all those who support or justify mob justice and blasphemy-related violence in any way. The need of the hour is to have a debate on blasphemy law so the less-educated people who are provoked by religious figures are told that the law is man-made and has not been mentioned anywhere in the Quran. Speaking up against blasphemy law is not blasphemy, and if you think it is, you are part of the problem.

Ailia Zehra

The writer is a former staff member who writes on counterterrorism and gender equality among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at [email protected]



One Comment;

  1. Javed Ch said:

    Good article.Draconian laws slowly and steadily loose their strength.

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