Woes of our minorities

The general apathy towards Pakistan’s minorities has invited harsh criticism and verbal castigation from the international community, with Pope Benedict XVI and Amnesty International urging the country to release her immediately. The sentencing to death for the first time of a woman under the controversial Blasphemy Law is sullying Pakistan’s image. The entire world is appalled at this travesty and human rights activists are up in arms to get Aasia’s sentence overturned.

Aasia’s case has drawn such severe criticism that the president has personally looked into this sentence that was delivered by a lower court. There is even talk of a presidential pardon, of the kind that was granted to Rehman Malik some months back. However, in this case, the pardon seems absolutely apt. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer visited Aasia in jail on Saturday to get her signature on a mercy appeal to the president. The Governor promised to intercede on her behalf with the president. Not only could this be the outcome of the glare of the international media and rights groups but also because of the repercussions of being accused under the Blasphemy Law. Aasia’s case is set for an appeal in the High Court. But, like many cases before this, even if appeals do bear fruit, the accused have been killed outside the courts or in their homes. The president may very well have the foresight to see this eventuality and, hence, there is talk of a premature pardon, even before the judicial process is complete.

In another example of the state of our minorities, an attack on an Ahmedi house of worship on Eid day is cause for alarm. There is some doubt whether the worship place was intended to be targeted or whether it was two gangs exchanging fire outside, but the terror and panic generated betrays the sorry fact that minorities — real or declared — live in constant fear of their lives.The social attitudes, prejudiced laws and intolerant world views that breed in our society need to be thrown into the rubbish tip of history. The Blasphemy Law must be repealed. Pakistanis must be made to realise that religious zeal that condones murder and indifference towards the faith and beliefs of others will relegate us to the Dark Ages if we do not reverse these terrifying trends – Dailytimes