Category Archives: Blasphemy Laws

The menace within

Pakistan was created to tolerate all people regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity and gender. However, in order to achieve this ideal, and this is palpable from recents events, our country has not matched neighbouring India in building our state institutions as a democratic nation. But this was because Pakistan was caught off guard when treachery struck us and “they”, the Indians, had “Joe”. So we might have an excuse.

Sadly, the military has dispossessed the Pakistanis of Mr Jinnah’s legacy of freedom. In that way Pakistan is still wedded to the vestiges of imperialism. In India, however, Pandit Nehru (or “Joe”) expeditiously settled the country’s constitution, whereas in Pakistan the seeds evil were sown when the venal Muhammed Munir CJ appeased his military masters by murdering democracy in its nascency. Munir upheld Ghulam Muhammed’s dissolution of the legislature in 1954 (for the Constituent Assembly’s failure to produce a constitution within a reasonable timescale) and in doing so he legitimised perpetual tyranny and violence in Pakistan.

I will not expand too much upon what Munir CJ did but he affirmed dictatorship – for example, in Dosso v The State, he used Professor Hans Kelsen’s theory of “pure revolution” to legitimise Ayub’s 1958 military coup d’état. Kelsen, of course, was truly repulsed by this and disowned what Munir falsely attributed to him. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday ZAB

Roti, Kapra aur Makan

Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was perhaps the most popular South Asian leader of his time. Today is his birthday and had he chosen to cheat death by making a deal with General Zia he would have been 83 years of age. Born to a Hindu mother and a Muslim father ZAB married an Iranian Shia.

His vision of a free Pakistan was free from the kind of discrimination, madness and murder which we can witness in the country’s present politics.

He was a very educated man who was able to charm major leaders on the international political stage.

In her book Interview with history the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci described ZAB as a “man with a thousand faces”. A controversial (owing to her Islamophobia) and renowned journalist, Fallaci admitted being overwhelmed by ZAB’s character and conceded that she was awestruck by his personality. Continue reading

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Despite the terrible suicide bombing earlier today, Pakistani law and democracy would like to wish Pakistani Christians (and Hindus, Muslims and others) a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. One can only wonder how Asia Bibi’s Christmas has been so far and we sympathise with her family’s harsh predicament. One can only hope that she will be released and all the charges against her will be dropped.

Pakistani girl celebrating Christmas

Condition of widows in Pakistan

Dr Masuma Hasan

Being a widow is not a stigma in Pakistan either in religion or under the law. Marriage in Islam, which is the religion followed by the majority of the population, is not considered as sacrosanct. It is viewed as a civil contract between two individuals which can be dissolved. Thus the extreme sanctity attached to marriage in certain other religions does not operate to turn a widow into an outcast or be held responsible for her husband’s death. Traditionally, widows have been encouraged to re-marry and marriage to a widow has always been considered as an honourable act.

According to the latest Census (1998), in a population of 132.4 million, there were 2.7 million widows in the female population of 69 million. The largest number, 442,179, were found in the age bracket 75 years and above, followed by 416,773 in ages 60 to 64 years, and 326,176 between 50 to 54 years. However, Pakistan’s population in 2010 is estimated at over 170 million so the number of     widows has also increased.

Supportive influences

The law of the land, as embodied in the Constitution of 1973, and all previous constitutions, does not discriminate between the rights of women and men. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to both and rules out discrimination on the basis of sex. It empowers the State to make special laws for the protection of women and children and take steps to ensure the full participation of women in all spheres of national life and protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.

A widow inherits one-fourth of her husband’s property if she has no children, and one-eighth of his property if she has children. The Government has made humane provisions for the widows of its employees. After the death of a Government employee, his widow receives the family pension until her own death. Widows of lower paid employees also receive a one-time grant for rehabilitation from the official Benevolent Fund. In the private sector, which works for profit, there are no universal rules governing support for widows of deceased employees, but given the culture of philanthropy, some short-term provision is probably made. Continue reading

Blasphemy and the rule of law: Asia Bibi’s case

History

A barrister by trade Mr Jinnah shared with the profession its militant passion for espousing very precisely advocated arguments and it is not by chance that six decades after his death we can still hear his principles echo. In his first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Mr Jinnah provided his people with clues for future action. He described the evils which threatened Pakistan’s interests and suggested remedies which would aid its inhabitants in achieving the secular dream that he had dreamt for the newborn state.

Mr Jinnah

In his first address to the Constituent Assembly Mr Jinnah very famously declared that in Pakistan there could be “no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another”. He also reassured Pakistan’s citizens by his declaration that:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Clearly Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan was very much about an impartial state which did not treat its minorities poorly and one which did not persecute them.

In his speech Mr Jinnah also reiterated his fears for the future. Pakistan, argued Mr Jinnah, would have to fight diseases such as “bribery, corruption, jobbery, nepotism and black marketing” and in order to win against such evils the post-colonial state would have to grant all its citizens equality and constitutional “human” rights.

Equally, even the later Objectives Resolution (considered to be the touchstone of the “Islamic” influence on Pakistan’s constitution) – which was passed in March 1949 under the aegis of Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan – clearly made provisions for the protection of the rights of minorities. Keeping with Mr Jinnah Nawabzada envisaged a nation: Continue reading

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