City Notes

I had a sort of suspicion that the killing of Mashal Khan for alleged blasphemy in Wali Khan University, Mardan, might have been meant as a distraction from the death sentence given to Indian naval officer and RAW agent Kulbhushan Jhadav captured in Balochistan. I mean, Wali Khan was known to be so soft on India that his father and his uncle opposed Pakistan in the NWFP referendum that decided in its favour, even though they held office.

But the killing was too much. Not because blasphemy is OK, but it wasn’t proved in any court that Mashal had blasphemed. Before a sentence is passed, the accused must be found guilty of having committed the offence for which that particular punishment is prescribed. I suspect that Mashal was killed paradoxically because of those campaigning for the reform of the blasphemy laws. You see, they’ve created doubts about the law, in the midst of existing doubts about the entire legal system. Because of that, even supporters of the blasphemy law feel that it wouldn’t be enforced against the guilty.

Even under the Raj, there was a blasphemy law, inevitable really, in a population following more than four faiths, all of them competing with each other. Yet Muslims saw Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed hanged for killing a Hindu who wrote a biography of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) committing blasphemy.

That case became something of a cause célèbre, and was one of the things convincing the Muslims of India that they needed a state of their own. However, the blasphemy law was hardly a priority, and it had to wait until Ziaul Haq to be passed, or rather promulgated. It did mean that no one could take justice into their own hands. If anyone committed blasphemy, the conscientious believer was not supposed to execute private justice, but supposed to bring the matter to the attention of the police so that they would collect evidence to produce before a court.

True, that may not be the most attractive prospect for anyone who cares about a blasphemy charge. The problem with a blasphemy charge is that finding and punishing the culprit is a responsibility for all believers. True, by catching and punishing the culprit, the state maintains its monopoly of force, and prevents the private justice that would otherwise take place, but its main function is as a deputy, carrying out through its mechanism what is essentially a private duty.

Then there was the saving of his body being burnt. That was correct, for he was dead by then, and anyway, the Almighty has forbidden burning as a punishment.

Another lack of courage shown was that his killing is not being blamed on militants. This shows that someone is sleeping on the job. The same applies to Kulbhushan Jhadav. He has not been accused of militancy, which indicates the failure of the military police, which should have unloaded a few cases on him. OK, maybe he couldn’t be accused of actual militancy, because they blow themselves up, but at least he should have been named as a facilitator.

Militants seemed to have been on a downturn. There was a shooting in a San Bernardino high school, and the police said it was a suicide murder, even though it was the same town as had a shooting by a Pakistani couple at an office Christmas party in 2015, in which they killed 14 people and injured 22. Though only two were killed this time, still an opportunity to relive the shooting that helped take Donald Trump to the Presidency was lost by not blaming the shooting on some mad Muslim.

One wonders what the world is coming to. Militants killed a load of Christians in Egypt, and its military ruler, Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, declared an emergency. That seems a little like Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency when he wanted to sack Mr Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice, even though he had not lifted the previous one. Pakistani and Egyptian military rulers. It seems, think alike, and refuse to learn from each other, and repeat not just their own mistakes, but each other’s. As for fighting wars, the Egyptian Army fought Israel both times after Pakistan fought India. However, Egypt lost territory (the Sinai Peninsula) in 1967 before Pakistan lost East Pakistan in 1971. So militants in Pakistan went after Christians before militants in Egypt did. While the anti-non-Muslim thing has a long history in Pakistan, perhaps because Partition had to be achieved on the basis of religion, it’s new to Egypt. There are two major reasons: first, a wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a Coptic Christian. Second, the Copts of Egypt accepted, indeed welcomed, Muslim rule because they were tolerated, and not being forced to turn Greek Orthodox, as the Byzantines were trying to do. As for the idea of attacking Christians, well, why can’t ideas be exchanged? The Pharaonic civilisation was learning from the Indus Valley civilisation, it seems, about 4000 years ago, or more. According to some scholars, both were African in origin. Looking at both Copts and Dravidians, the respective heirs of these two civilisations, this seems about right. Of course, now both Egypt and Pakistan have got more in common because of their Armies.