Only a day after the National Assembly unanimously agreed to amend the blasphemy law and place safeguards for false accusations, on Wednesday, both Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) declared that they were against the idea of changing the controversial law.
Both JI and JUI-F have now stated that the blasphemy law itself is not the problem, those that take the law into their own hands – as in the case of Mashal Khan – are the main issue and should be punished accordingly. But what both parties choose to ignore, is that false accusations of blasphemy are a real problem. Mashal Khan was falsely accused, like many others before him, and long before an investigation could even begin, he was butchered on the steps of the university he used to study in. They fail to see that being accused of blasphemy is tantamount to a death sentence in this country, and that is why our legislators need to step in.
Contrary to the belief of JUI-F and JI lawmakers, the blasphemy law is anything but perfect and a colonial creation. Scrapping it altogether seems out of the question at this point in time, it must be changed to ensure that it is not exploited as it is on most occasions. On Wednesday, yet another man was killed by three sisters because they believed he had committed blasphemy more than a decade ago. A 295-C case had been registered against him in 2004, after which he had left the country. His arrival back to Pakistani soil all but hammered the final nail in his coffin, because the vigilante sisters sought him out in his home and murdered him in cold blood. They did not notify the police of the suspected blasphemer’s arrival, nor did they wait for an investigation, and his murder tells us that the silence of the state has been perceived as tacit approval by all those who kill in the name of protecting their religion’s honour.
And this is exactly why the law is problematic, because each time, individuals or groups believe they can take the law in their own hands to exact justice. The state’s inability to punish these offenders, vocally speak out against supposed blasphemers long before their guilt has been proven, and indifference towards amending the law is exactly why we stand here in the first place.
If both JUI-F and JI actually stand for justice (as they claim), getting in the way of changing a law that denies justice to all those accused under it is highly irresponsible. The narrative against false allegations of blasphemy is finally being established in the country, we must not let it die down due to a few parties that use the moralistic stance when it suits them, but never stand for the right thing when push comes to shove.