Political bigotry

Thousands of followers of the religious and right wing parties gathered in Lahore to warn the government not to amend the blasphemy laws. The religious parties included the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Tehrik-e-Millat-e-Jafariya, banned militant outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) among others, while the PML-N, PML-Q, PML-Z, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were the centre-right parties present.Just last month there was a large congregation of the extreme right in Karachi under the same banner, demanding the same thing – no amendment or repeal of the blasphemy laws. The rally in Lahore was almost as ‘successful’, but certain dimensions of this rally make it more significant. The extreme right managed to bring on board the centre-right political forces. Equally important is the fact that a Shia organisation decided to join them despite the fact that Sunni sectarian extremists have been involved in massacring Shias over the decades. The bigotry of the Deobandis came out in full force when Sajid Naqvi, a Shia leader, joined the rally and many in the crowd started shouting: “Kafir, kafir, Shia kafir” (Shias are infidels). JuD chief Hafiz Saeed also addressed the crowd. Hafiz Saeed seems to be on the frontline of this ‘struggle’. JuD is a front of the banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). How is it then that the Punjab authorities allowed the chief of a banned outfit to address a mammoth rally in the provincial capital (yet again)? This will also have an adverse impact on the Indo-Pak foreign secretaries meeting about to take place this month in Thimphu.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s ‘advice’ to Punjab Governor Khosa to pay a visit to late Governor Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri in order to ‘thank’ him for his governorship shows the level of the speeches at the rally. On the other hand, the centre-right parties showed their support for bigotry by their participation. The PPP-led government has backpedalled and completely retreated on its stance on the blasphemy laws and repeatedly bleated that no change to these flawed laws is being contemplated.The track record of blasphemy cases shows that these have nothing to do with religion or blasphemy. These laws are flawed and open to abuse. Instead of stopping the misuse of these laws, now that the religious right has strengthened itself, the abuse is likely to be perpetuated. The government, even if it is not ready to repeal or amend these laws, should at least put a check on the misuse of these laws that has led to so much injustice – Dailytimes