In an effort to appease the extreme religious right, the government has taken a regressive step backwards in a move that will cost the nation dearly in terms of extremism, intolerance and the abuse of its citizens, especially its minorities. Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah has categorically stated in the National Assembly that no amendments and no repeal of the dreaded Blasphemy Law are contemplated. After months of heated debate on this issue for the government to dash all hope is an eye-opener. It has opened the nation’s eyes to the blatant disregard the government has for its minorities and it has alerted the citizens to the fact that the intolerant elements of society have gained yet another victory. However, one would like to remind the government of a few sharp facts. If our representatives think that the shutter-down strike called by the Tahafooz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat today will be abandoned just like that and that the JUI-F will be lured into rejoining the federal government, they have another think coming. All they have managed to do by officially stating that the Blasphemy Law will not undergo any repeal or amendment is increase the power of hostile extremists in our society who are baying for the blood of a Christian woman (Aasia Bibi) because of an alleged slight on the person of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Sadly, the government has served to only defend the self-proclaimed guardians of Islam and not Islam itself, which is a religion of tolerance and peace.
Mr Khursheed Shah has also said that the government will ensure the protection of minorities from any abuse of the Blasphemy Law. One begs to ask: will the government continue to protect the minorities like it has done so far, which is by doing nothing at all? The fact that the minister has failed to outline any method or plan to protect the very vulnerable minorities in Pakistan from extremists clearly indicates the lack of any real formulation for minority welfare. All they have succeeded in doing is giving more leeway to the Islamists to wreak further havoc on the minorities they know will never be protected by the state.The government has also abandoned a rare voice of sanity in this growing cacophony of madness. MNA Sherry Rehman has tabled a private member’s bill to introduce amendments to the black law. However, the government has said that it will not support this effort. Also, as a response to Sherry Rehman’s bill, a committee has been set up to scrutinise any private members’ bills. This is tantamount to preventing any private members’ bills from being moved. To vet all such initiatives is akin to abolishing this inherent right of members of parliament — all this to appease a hate-mongering clergy.
Let us not live within the obscure four walls of fiction. The reality is that the extreme right is going to ride over the wishes of the people. This apprehension is not without substance. The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has recently struck down four clauses of the Women’s Protection Act. The draconian Hudood Ordinance and the 2nd Constitutional Amendment, which ousted Ahmedis from the Muslim community, are still on the statute books. But even this will seem like a picnic if the misplaced attitude of placating the extremist religious right is not reversed.It is time we stopped kow-towing to these forces that have done more harm to Islam and this country than all of our other malaises combined. It is time the extremists in society were told that enough is enough and that their attempts to hold the state and society hostage to their narrow views will no longer be tolerated. It is time to abolish the FSC, repeal the Hudood Ordinance and Blasphemy law and revisit the 2nd Amendment so that Pakistanis can live and breathe like free human beings, not as slaves to religious despots – Dailytimes