Why it is impossible to repeal blasphemy laws

By Feroz Khan

Babar Awan’s statement proves that the state of Pakistan is incapable of removing any laws once they are created on the basis of religion. In the last few days, if anyone has noticed, the statements coming from the officialdom have gradually obscured the issue. Therefore, one has to applaud Babar Awan for his honesty and candor for calling a spade a spade. In this sense, Babar Awan stands heads and shoulders above those minions of Pakistani politics, who do not have the moral and intellectual courage to state the truth in Pakistan.

First, Salmaan Taseer proclaims that Asif Ali Zardari will pardon Asiya Bibi and then, the minister for minorities, Bhatti, says that Zardari will pardon her but it will not be an immediate pardon and will take time. Then, comes a statement from Zardari’s office that since Asiya Bibi has filed an appeals, Zardari will wait for the appeal process to run its course and wait for the court judgement, on the appeal, before issuing a pardon. Zardari is a cunning politician and by saying this, he has taken himself off the hook and created a situation, where he does not have to take a decision on the matter. He has cleverly deflected international pressure and opinion by saying that the matter is being considered and he cannot prejudice the legal proceedings by issuing a pardon at this stage.

How long will this process last? The courts in Pakistan are an expletive deleted, when it comes to delivering justice. No judge, in their right mind, will over turn the judgement of the lower courts and risk a premature death at the hands of religious parties. Judges, when they decide cases like this one, think of their families and how to protect them from the backlash and not what the law says on the matter. This means that the proceedings will be made hostage to the procedural nature of the legal system in Pakistan and may take years; while the poor woman continues to languish in jail. In the mean time, as is the wont of our times, a new crisis will emerge and this issue will fade into a quiet, unmourned death.

Asiya Bibi, to be candid, does not qualify for a presidential pardon as she has not doing anything to deserve it. There are no allegations of corruption, murder, embezzlement or fakery associated with her and the presidential pardon is only reserved for criminals and those in Pakistan, who have the power to abuse the system and get themselves pardoned.

One must applaud Babar Awan for stating the truth and reminding everyone in Pakistan, what the reality is and the reality is that no politician will challenge the blasphemy laws, because they need need the political support of the mullahs to remain in power and no politician or political party in Pakistan, will jeopardize its political options by alienating the one core constituency, which matters in Pakistan and from which deprives all notions of legitimacy – religion.

Another aspect to ponder, by those who cherish hopes and are holding candles alight, is what does Asiya Bibi have to offer the politicians that they should risk their political fortunes for her sake? Can she offer a bribe of 50 crore rupees (confirmed by a very good source as what the going rate of bribes is at the very highest echelons of this government.) Can she rig the elections and give this government and Zardai another term of office?

One only has to listen to the silence of complicity to realize that nothing will happen and this is all a charade to fool the utopians in Pakistan. Where is the cross-eyed chief justice of Pakistan and why is he silent? Simply, because Asiya Bibi has nothing to offer him in areas that matter to him and his patron, Nawaz Sharif. Where is the so-called champion of liberal causes Asma Janghir about whom everyone was waxing lyrical a few weeks back or is the reality true that she takes cases, which only place her in the lime light?

What is important to Asma Jahangir; Asiya Bibi and her plight or the politics of the Supreme Court Bar Association?

Sherry Rehman says that if the blasphemy laws cannot be repealed; they should be made toothless by passing laws, which seek to amend them and curb their worst practices. This is, as a Russian tsar once said, utopian nonsense. The blasphemy laws cannot be amended because to do so, would be going against the strictures of the Pakistani constitutional thought, which says no laws repugnant to Islam or sunnah can be made and therefore, any amendments that seek to modify such existing laws, are by their very intent and purpose, against the idea of Islam and sunnah as enshrined in our laws and cannot be amended or repealed.

The silence of the government, the politicians; those who have the authority to save Asiya Bibi says volumes and if one wants to understand their true intentions on this subject, then one must listen to their silence and become deaf to their words. Pakistan is merrily trotting on the path to hell, because everyone in Pakistan has good intention and our problem as a nation is that we believe the intentions of those who promise us to fetch water from the moon, but never hold them accountable for not delivering it or even bother to ask them, in the first place, how how they hope to do it?



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33 responses to “Why it is impossible to repeal blasphemy laws

  1. Prasad

    Feroz being absolutely logical and right,, you are a hopeless minority. Lets accept that. Majority in your country are the Saeed Hafiz kind of folks who I am afraid will grow only more powerful going forward if majority goes nimble and silent….these folks can take you to caves single handedly…..the only thing these cowards can do is to dream of those 72 virgins and attack harmless people…rascals

  2. Farid

    People now championing secularism and writing against the Blasphemy law, never came forward to defend the lady when the case was still in the court. Human Rights Commission and other proponents of secularism should have handled the matter before it got to the decision stage.
    A poor woman was left to defend herself against some groups that had the money and the ability to hire lawyers to plead against her.
    All groups waited for the case to be decided against the woman to take up the issue so they can generate maximum benefit for their organizations and project their own person as the supporter of the liberal causes.

    Pakistani liberals now find it convenient to write columns every second day to deplore the decision.
    Hypocrisy is the middle name of all Pakistani liberals.
    The approach that moderates in Pakistan take is to make noises after the fact and that is not working versus taking up the issue as soon as a case is registered in a police station. The liberals in the media should keep the pressure on the editors to look out for the cases and if you raise hell immediately after learning about the cases lodged in, it would be hard for the court system to deliver outrageous verdicts.
    Pakistan is a conservative country and once a conservative law is in the books only the army can take it off and we know where the army stands on these issues. You cannot change the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan, you can make them ineffective.

    The Human Rights Commission is very active in National level politics but comes up short when peoples rights are actually trampled upon.
    How hard it is for the HRC and other NGOs to monitor the police and court system for blasphemy cases?
    There is a certain area in Punjab where most of these cases are registered. Recently, I read 700 such cases are moving up in the system. I don’t know how accurate that is but even if 1/10 are really there, they would require immediate attention.

  3. T.S. Bokhari

    Beware of ‘Aashiqaan-e-Rasool’, as they call themselves, are killer ‘aashiqs’, not the sacrificial ones like Majnoon or Farhaad.

  4. Tilsim

    @ Feroz
    “The blasphemy laws cannot be amended because to do so, would be going against the strictures of the Pakistani constitutional thought, which says no laws repugnant to Islam or sunnah can be made and therefore, any amendments that seek to modify such existing laws, are by their very intent and purpose, against the idea of Islam and sunnah as enshrined in our laws and cannot be amended or repealed.”

    You present this as a Mullah’s fatwa. Not everyone agrees. As an example, see a lawyer’s view below. I agree with you that it’s high time something practical flowed out of this sort of dissent. How to do that effectively is the challenge facing right minded people. Clearing up confusion amongst people who should know better is a first step.

    by Qazi Faez Isa, published in DAWN, Karachi, on Sunday, May 28, 2000. Qazi Faez Isa was appointed Chief Justice of Baluchistan High Court in 2009 and a former supreme court advocate.

    “As it was the unanimous demand of the Ulema, Mashaikh and the people, therefore, I have decided to do away with the procedural change in registration of FIR under the blasphemy law” (General Musharraf, Dawn 17.5.2000).

    How was public opinion determined? No one asked me! Is the reference to ulema and mashaikh to the self-proclaimed ones or men and women of Islamic learning? And did populism prevail over Islam? Why was no attempt made to enter into a debate, or at least a learned Islamic discourse? What was the role of the two ministers (religious affairs and law) who are primarily concerned with this issue? One does not recollect any valuable contribution from these two sources.

    The sad fact is that deterioration has set in every aspect of national life. The most acute realization of this is felt whenever there is any interaction with the government. There is no substitute for learning and debate, and we are managing to do without either and consequently suffer. The government seems to have decided for all of us that in Pakistan 2000 our exposure to Islam is to be funnelled through the myopic, self-styled ‘guides’, whose principal contribution has been spreading hatred and attacking the foundations of the state. No attention is being paid to the true learned men and women of Islam, because unlike the camp which propagates violence in achieving their goals, these true Muslims do not make even a feeble attempt to be heard.

    Pampering this group does not serve the cause of Islam, is contrary to shariat and departs from the methodology adopted by Jinnah and those who devotedly worked for attaining this homeland.

    There is no substitute for knowledge, dialogue and niyat (intention). Let us learn a lesson from history. My father, Qazi Muhammad Isa, who was principally responsible for bringing Balochistan into the fold of Pakistan, was a member of the Balochistan Law Reform Commission. The other members included Balochistan’s governor, Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal, and Mr Fazle Ghani Khan.These gentlemen informed me how my father had handled a potentially explosive situation.

    The Balochistan Law Reform Commission made visits to a number of different places to gather public opinion. On a visit to a traditional-conservative Pathan area they were accosted by the elders and ulema who demanded the enforcement of shariat and objected to the work of the Commission, which was perceived by them to be anti-shariat. It transpired that the local Pathans had taken strong exception to recording the names of their womenfolk on the recently introduced national identity cards. This according to them was un-Islamic and therefore unacceptable. My father inquired whether the delegation would be kind enough to enlighten him about the names of Islam’s first convert and wife of the Prophet (PBUH) and the Prophet’s daughter married to Hazrat Ali.Hazrat Khadija and Hazrat Fatima was the prompt answer. Upon hearing this, my father inquired whether the names of these distinguished ladies could be taken if Islam was against this practice. The delegation fell silent and abandoned their objection to the name insertion in the identity cards.

    They then said “zhumz shariat ghoaru” (‘we want shariat’) and not “Angrezi qanoon” (English law). My father responded that the Commission could report this desire and wanted the delegation to help them. He suggested that this could be done if the delegation was prepared to abandon certain prevailing but un-Islamic practices. He advised that they should waive accumulated usury which was due to them (Pathans being notorious and usurious moneylenders), stop the cultivation and trade in intoxicants (opium and hashish) and recognize the shares of mothers, widows and daughters in inheritance. (Men divide the ladies’ shares among themselves and the revenue records of these and many rural areas of the country, reveal the virtual absence of a female population). The delegation immediately backtracked saying that this was not possible because these were their established tribal practices and had been validated by jirga.

    On being asked whether they wanted the endorsement of jirga practices contrary to shariat, the delegation beat a hasty retreat never to be seen or heard of again.

    Knowledge and reason were subsequently to prevail upon superstition and exploitation. The light of enlightenment vanquished the darkness of ignorance. Men of peace achieved this, men who adhered to Quaid’s ideals and men who did not command armies.

    In contrast, an all-powerful government, having been granted by the Supreme Court the power to amend the Constitution, failed to effect, what from a legal perspective was an insignificant amendment in the law. The amendment which the government wanted to bring about was that any report of an offence of blasphemy should in the future be made to the district magistrate and not at the police station.

    A practice of settling personal vendettas by lodging false reports of offence of blasphemy (Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code) against a person or persons intended to be harmed has developed. The fact that in Pakistan lodging of such FIRs has become matter of frequent occurrence confirms the misuse of this provision of the law. Needless to stress that in a predominantly Muslim country any derogatory or disrespectful remark about the Prophet (PBUH) is unthinkable. Only one bereft of any reason or sense could risk inviting society’s wrath and possibly worse by indulging in any such sacrilegious utterances.

    To check false allegations of blasphemy from being made and Islam wrongly exploited for vendetta or for settling personal scores, which is anathema to a (true) Muslim, it was essential that the power of the police to entertain an FIR be curtailed. In advocating such a change General Musharraf was not acting against the interest of Islam. Undoubtedly, he was well intentioned but perhaps did not have the requisite support from his team to counteract the agitators. Occupying ministerial positions but bereft of vision and knowledge they could only advise an expedient retreat.

    The action could only encourage the tendency to use religion to harass and persecute one’s enemies and rivals.

    The insistence on retaining the jurisdiction of the police in preference to that of the district magistrate, who is a more senior member of the administration, is incomprehensible. Unless those agitating against the proposed amendment were doing so because they considered police stations more malleable and amenable to pressure and inducement and, therefore, were ideally suited to their questionable purpose and interests. Is our government so out of touch that it does not realize that the poor, the rich, the Muslim, the Christian, the literate, the illiterate, citizens of Pakistan, if they are united in a view, it is that Pakistani police stations are dens of inequity, and not citadels which best preserve Islamic values.

    The maximum punishment for blasphemy in Pakistan is death, or imprisonment for life, and also fine. There is no discretion for imposing a lesser sentence. The process which may result in the passing of this sentence commences upon the lodging of an FIR in a police station, often on payment of a bribe, and in many cases without a shred of evidence, except the word of a self-described alim. There is no punishment prescribed for lodging a false report.

    Eminent ulema have over the centuries written copiously on the subject. They have deliberated on whether blasphemy (insulting the Holy Prophet, sabb al-Rasool) without an element of apostasy (repudiation of Islam, sabb Allah, riddah) is an offence in Islam. They have considered the significance of the Prophet (PBUH) not acting against those who renounced Islam and vilified and defamed him. Included among these were Abd Allah b. Abi Sarh, Ikramah b. Abi Jahl, Safwan b. Umayyah, and Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufyan. A writer on the subject states that, “some Jews also addressed the Prophet with the words, ‘death be upon you, (al-sam alaykum), but, in none of the reports did the Prophet order any punishment.” They have thus determined that the offence is not hadd (ordained by God) but tazir. Imam Abu Hanifah maintained that a dhimmi (non-Muslim) is not liable to the death punishment for the offence of blasphemy.

    Islam is a religion which stands for peace and insists on justice. God almighty advised the Holy Prophet and early believers to develop their inner resources through patience and resilience. “Quite a number of the people of the Book wish they could turn you back to infidelity after ye have believed – from (their) selfish envy, after the Truth hath become manifest unto them, but forgive and overlook” (surah Al-Baqarah, verse 109). A commentator on this verse says: “It teaches that the success of Islam had naturally made the un-believers insecure and envious, and that under such circumstances a punitive approach would not produce the desired result”. “And ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship partners besides Allah. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil – then that indeed is a matter of great resolution (the best course with which to determine your affairs)” (surah Al-Imran, verse 186).

    It is noteworthy that the law in its present form does not consider the question of repentance. Is this Islamic? “The Hanafis and the majority of the Shafis consider blasphemy to be in the same category as apostasy and have ruled that repentance is admissible in both cases. Thus, the blasphemer, like the apostate, is to be asked for repentance on three consecutive days, which will be counted from the time of conviction” (Freedom of Expression in Islam by Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali).

  5. Former PTH fan

    What a pathetic defense of a pathetic PPP minister of a pathetic PPP government.

    So, Sherry Rahman and Asma Jehangir are the villains and it is Babar Awan who is right on the Asiya case.

    PTH us becoming an abode of apologists.

  6. Talha

    Nothings impossible.

    One day these nonsense laws will be repealed and low life’s like Babar A-One, his PPP (Maaf Kardo Bhutto) and their Mullah allies will be cornered out of Pakistan’s political framework.

  7. Humanity

    Harzat Ali (ra) in her letter to Governer Malik wrote:
    “Let your mind respect through your actions the rights of God and the rights of man, and likewise, persuade your companions and relations to do likewise. For, otherwise, you will be doing injustice to yourself and injustice to humanity. Thus both man and God will turn unto your enemies. There is no hearing anywhere for one who makes an enemy of God himself. He will be regarded as one at war with God until he feels contrition and seeks forgiveness. Nothing deprives man of divine blessings or excites divine wrath against him more easily than cruelty. Hence it is, that God listens to the voice of the oppressed and waylays the oppressor.”

    These devil incarnates are not out of Allah’s reach.

  8. Samachar

    Islam is a religion which stands for peace and insists on justice.
    One must conclude that where there are Muslims, there is likely to be little or no Islam.

  9. O J DEEN

    O ye who believe ! be strict in observing justice and be witnesses for ALLAH, even though it be against yourselves or against your parents or kindred.
    Whether he, against whom witness is borne, be rich or poor, ALLAH is more regardful of them both than you are.
    Therefore follow not your low desires that you may be able to act equitably.
    And if you hide the truth or evade it, then know that ALLAH is Well-Aware of what you do.
    (Holy Quran: 4:136)

    Hazrat Ali narrates that the Holy Prophet (swa) said: –
    ” A time will come when nothing will remain of Islam except its Name, and nothing will remain of the Quran except its Script.
    Mosques will be full of woreshippers but as far as righteousness is concerned they will be emty.
    Their Ulemas (religious scholars) will be the worst creatures under the Sky.
    Evil will plot from them and to them it will return.”
    refrence al-Baihaqi as quoted in al-Mishkat Kitab-ul ‘Ilm, chapter 3, p. 38 and Kanzul ‘Ummal, chapter 6, p. 43 .

    Abdullah ibn Mas’ud relates that the Holy Prophet (sa) said : –
    Truth guides to virtue and virtue guides to Paradise.
    A person persists in telling the truth till in the sight of Allah he is named Truthful.
    Lying leads to vice and vice leads to the Fire; and a person goes on lying till in the sight of Allah he is named a liar .
    (Bokhari and Muslim).

  10. YLH

    Babar Awan’s statement is a calculated act of doublespeak to balance out Salman Taseer’s attack on blasphemy laws.

  11. AllahkaBanda

    without having exhausted all the legal remedies available there is no point in asking for a pardon. The law is there and Superior courts are doing fine. Let theDevil have its go to prove herself innocent and the accusers guilty and in both cases let them have the same punishment.

    Law and Justice has no reason to be flouted under refuge of ‘special’ act of pardon which is obviously under foreign pressure. Let all the ‘learned’ sympathizers of get up and plead her case at the Appellate levels rather than waste their time here in sentimental talk and justifications.

  12. Tilsim

    @ Allahkabanda

    She is a mother of five and has been in prison for a long time for a ridiculous charge under an unjust law which only has death as it’s recompense. Even if she is guilty of the charge, there are mitigating circumstances of provocation and her own plea for forgiveness and clemency. No person should be put to death for losing their temper. I am not a foreigner and nor are the countless Pakistanis asking for her pardon..please wake up and look past your pride and sense of vulnerability.

  13. Where there is WILL there is a Way (which is also the Sarat-e Mustaqueem/The Righteous Path). The Blasphemy Laws are merely a diversionary SHELL.

    En passant, there are no 72 tripple-breasted Huris awaiting (in their Havens!) the Perverse Perverts (hooKKKed on marathon moolah and macro-mediocrity) who are fetish about upholding Blasphemy Lows (read it again!). They SHALL burn in high-hell.

    It all reminds me of a couplet by the great poet: Ustaad Damman: “Uttoonn RoeLAW pawEE jaw; tey whichonn-which khaw-EE jaw..”

  14. I support Barrister Iqbal Jafree Sahib whole-heartedly. The other day I heard him say in open High Court that:
    God bless Jafree who taught Harvard University to start practising a bit of Equal Opportunity while he was on a vulnerable Student Visa [1965-66]. Not even The Rt. Hon’ble Ralph Nader (Unsafe At Any Speed) dared it. Making obscene or malignent phone calls to Universities won’t change knowthing for realty-scumbags and Turf-Controllers Annonymous indulging in TC (turf control!!).. Lack of a Sense of Humor is an amongst the entelyjendia of this unfortunate contry…

    CONCLUSION: !@#$%^&*()_{}

  15. T.S. Bokhari

    (November 27, 2010 at 11:40 am)
    “Islam is a religion which stands for peace and insists on justice.
    One must conclude that where there are Muslims, there is likely to be little or no Islam.”.

    A good cliche but too sweeping.
    It can be said, vice verse, where there is True Islam there can be no Muslims (The submitters to their selfish ego and not the true believers in what is truth and justice). but these are all vague terms.
    In Pakiland the Islam has been devoid of any element of Deen (Faith) and has become merely a political despotism (Mullah fascism) by requiring its paak (purified) citizens to submit humiliating declarations about their faith to become ‘Halfi Muslims’ to be differentited from ‘non-halfi’ Muslims called ‘Ahmadies’. As such there is niether Islam nor peace and justice here but only mullah’s ‘deen-fassaad’ and submitters to it.

  16. Beyond what TSB says (with which I do NOT disagree) above … those who are functionalizing Blasphemy Laws (and Lows!) as touted and practgiced in Pak. are generating “Fitna/\Fasaad” over here (official pun ishmednt is dxescribed terminallyt in The Holy Koran) to mend their fences wholesale and fill their bottomless deep-pocKKKets. They are molesting our Laws.
    Blasphemy Laws are dangedrolus as wsell as disgraceful.

    Docterter Barber Awaan, BaBa (Black Sheep), MA, L.L.B. (Lawyer and Liar Both) who $uport$$ these draCONic laws is talking noncents (but Dollars!) from both ends of his Exhibitionist motor-mouth. I think (because poetic license needds no No Objectikon Certificate from anyhone!) he will make an excellent (Chameleon) Art ‘Cricket’. He is superVERB at not playing cricket. He is and remaims the reel thing with a human face.

    Thank yoyo! Harris Steal Mills

    Syyed Iqbal Geoffrey
    (The Albairuni Prize Winner at CMHC1953)
    Vice Chancellor
    Syed Iqbal Geoffrey University of Art Criticism
    Foundedd in 1951 at Central Model HIGH School (CMHS)

  17. ramesh

    just for the record,has the present blasphamy law ever been applied to a muslim and was convicted and sentenced or this is to control,diminish and dwindle the others

  18. ramesh ji .. islam is an open, liberal religion, but now it has become the controlled turf of mulling laws, mullahs-agogo and moolah-onthetake.
    Yes! the Blasphemy laws have been applied by Pack-a-SatanMongers against perfectly innocent , God-fearing Muslims.
    All it taKKKes are two witnesses and it is:


  19. Ahsan

    Every soul is born free. Then why should he/she accept dictations and directions on absolutely personal matters. Why can’t I choose to remain a believer or an atheist or agnostic? When my religious beliefs and rituals don’t bother any other person then why is this vigilantism? They say if I leave the circle of Islam then the penalty is death. Why? Am I forcibly taking every man and women to come with me otherwise…

    If I can’t choose and question then why Allah put this instinct in me?

  20. @ Tilsim

    Clearing up the confusion might seem like a good step, but the problem is how to create the space to clear the confusion? As things stand presently, there is no room to even suggest that there might be a problem with the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

    I have no issues, with your above stated statement, but quiet honestly wonder how such a debate, leading to a productive discussion on the issue is possible, when the society is in such an acute state of polarization when ever the issue is religion that it unwilling to tolerate dissent.

    What are the options available? Either we reply in the same coin that the mullah is using; force or we try logic and common sense. I hope you remember the debate, which we had over my article on political Islam and how the issue boiled down, between AA Khalid and me, over the idea of religion in the “public sphere”. Do you remember, what my arguments were and why I was suggesting that religion has no business in being the public sphere but should be a private, individual concern?

    Removing religion from politics will not matter much, in our national narrative, if we fail to remove religion from the public forum as well. This case originated in the public forum and used the nexus of politics and religion to condone an injustice as a legally sanctioned act. Sadly, we will not be able to clear the cow webs of ignorance and misinformation unless we can secure and protect the right of expression and the right to life for those individuals, who may wish to step into the public forum to address the role of religion in the Pakistani society.

    As I said before; while I have no disagreements with your excellent reply to this article, I still feel that there is a need to create a secure and an infallible process to achieve the desired outcome, to which you have alluded. We can not do that till we remove, what you refer to as “mullah fatwa” from the pubic discourse and till that point; I will retain my argument that such laws in Pakistan are, indeed, expressionism of mullah fatwas.


  21. @ Former PTH fan (November 27, 2010 at 1:08 am)

    What is pathetic is not the statement of Babar Awan, or this article, but the continued state of denial, which exists in Pakistan, amongst some people, who deny reality and castigate those, who bring up the contradictions that exist between the reality and wishful thinking in Pakistan.

    Babar Awan has simply stated the truth and he is right, when he says that blasphemy laws cannot be changed, because that is the reality of the Pakistani politics. Salmaan Taseer et al may be good intentioned, but can they struggle against the grain of a religious political experience in Pakistan and undo such laws?

    Regardless of what one thinks of Babar Awan or his politics, one must develop the capacity to appreciate the truth when it is said and to applaud those, who say it. Our problem is that we are selective when it comes to the truth and we are prone to personalize politics to an extent that we judge issues and political statements not on the basis of realism, but on the value of our own personal opinions.

    I have more respect for a dishonest and a corrupt politican who tells the truth than a honest one or a dishonest one, who builds sand castles in the air with false promises. Can you deny the reality in Babar Awan’s statement? Do you really believe in the statements of Salmaan Taseer and Sherry Rehman or do you have doubts, which you do not even admit, that they will not be able to do anything? When you weigh the experience of hindsight with past precedents relating to blasphemy laws, with what is being said, what conclusions do you draw?

    Pathetic is not this article but the idea of ignoring or refusing to accept reality and living in self-denial.


  22. Samachar

    Feroz Khan:

    There seems to be confusion between “what ought to be” and “what is possible”. E.g., one might argue that the blasphemy law ought to be revoked but it is not possible in the current political situation.

    From what I’ve been able to read of Babar Awan’s statement, he is not saying that it is not possible to revoke the blasphemy law; he is saying that it ought not to be revoked; and in fact, that he himself would resist revoking the blasphemy law. ““In my presence as the Law Minister, no one should think of finishing this law…”

    There is no “reality” in Babar Awan’s statement then. He is not expounding on “what is” but on “what ought to be”.

    Contrast with the representative from my district to the US House of Representatives. He stated clearly that he thought that President Bush had committed impeachable crimes; but that also that it was politically impossible for the House to bring articles of impeachment; and he explained in some detail why that was so. The separation of “what ought to be” (Bush should be brought to an impeachment trial) and “what is possible” (there is no way of building the necessary political consensus) was very clear.

  23. @ Samachar (November 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm)

    Even so, can you deny reality of the statement?

    Why is Babar Awan not wishing to change the laws and saying so? He knows where the gravity of the political power lies and as a politican, wishing to maximize his political options, he is being truthful and simply stating what is obvious.


  24. Samachar

    Feroz Khan:

    It is a pointless** disagreement, but I disagree with you. He is taking a stand on whether one ought or ought not amend a law; and not whether one should try or not try (because of infeasibility). My Congressman was saying “A ought to happen”, but since “A is infeasible, I’m not going to spend any effort on trying to make A happen”. He too is a politician seeking to maximize his political options – (btw he survived a serious challenge in the just-concluded elections). Yes, he faces an electorate of a different temper than Babar Awan’s.

    ** pointless because the best outcome is that, at most, some thoughts are clarified.

    IMO, the same confusion between “what is” and “what ought to be” attends a lot of comments here about Islam, Muslims, etc. Far too often, a criticism of “what is” is taken to be directed at “what ought to be”.

  25. @ Samachar (November 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm)

    Pakistani politics is not a principled occupation and so, comparing it with the American politics may not be the most apt. In this case, we need to go beyond the words and dicipher what is being manuevered at.

    In order to do this, we need to know and accept certain truisms about Pakistani politics. One is the need to serve Caesar by being useful to him/her and to get as close to Caesar as possible by acts of loyal servitude and secondly; the closer one is to Caesar, the greater the fear of Caesar.

    Babar Awan has placed himself, politically, in the clerical-conservative camp of PPP by making this statement and in direct opposition to Salmaan Taseer, who has now been identified with the so-called liberals et al of PPP by his statements and acts in favor of Aysia Bibi.

    Both these politicans are appealing to different constituencies. Babar Awan is being realistic in the sense that he understand that all political power in Pakistan flows from religion and so, has pitched his chances with the religious right. In a very cynical sense, by doing so he has made sure that he will have a support group, behind him, if there are moves to oust him from the position of law minister and by stating that the blasphemy law will not be revoked under his tenure, he has sent a very subtle message to Asif Ali Zardari to think twice before Zardari acts in the interests of his own self-preservation, which may not be in Babar Awan’s interests.

    Salmaan Taseer is appealing to the Americans as an alternative to be considered once the king-makers gather to decide the future of a post-Asif Ali Zardari PPP and Pakistani politics.

    What is common between Salmaan Taseer and Babar Awan is that they might be looking ahead to a PPP minus Asif Ali Zardari and which prompts the question; is there is an internal jousting going on in the PPP and if so, what does that imply about Asif Ali Zardari’s hold on power.

    Recently, an announcement was made that the timing of the military operation in North Waziristan has been left to Kayani to decide and if that is the case, does it mean that the Pakistani army has recovered from the Musharraf years to feel strong enough to meddle in politics once more?

    The army was never happy with Zardari, but this does not necessarily mean a coup d’ etat but it means that may be the Americans, pre-occupied with their own end games inside Afghanistan, may need the Pakistani army more than Asif Ali Zardari and the army has sensed it; hence, those around Caesar are now searching for other options, if and when should Caesar fall.

    This issue has provided them with a chance to openly speak up where they stand on the political musical chairs within PPP and from whom they expect support in the future.

    One dot is just a dot; two dots make a straight line; three dots make a pattern and four dots make up a shape.

    There is a reason behind the actions of both Salmaan Taseer and Babar Awan and hints at something else more interesting!


  26. T.S. Bokhari

    @Feroz Khan
    (November 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm)

    A good analysis as usual by FK. But what Khan has to say about the Wiki-leaks regarding Zardari’s brain which according to Shah Abdullah is rotten and a hindrance to the progress of Pakistan. Question arises: Why of all Shah is concerned about progress of Pakistan? Will his opinion go against Zardari or in his favor? This depends on how one views the idea of the Shah about progress, but his meddling in Paky affairs to this extent perhaps may be looked upon as uncalled for by PPP liberals and may turn the tide in favor of the repeal of the BL.

  27. T.S. Bokhari (November 29, 2010 at 6:08 am)

    I have not yet waded through the massive trove of diplomatic cables, generally known as “dispatches”, released by WikiLeaks. Let me just add, that being associated with the diplomatic community and having a background in politics, this sort of public diplomacy makes me cringe. The whole purpose of these dispatches is to offer a candid assessment of the politicans of the host country and to “get inside the mind” of political leaders by letting them speak in confidence. A diplomat’s job is to “observe, listen and watch” by ferreting out information; all information as possible and report it.

    I can understand the arguments of free speech and accountibility, but in diplomatic terms, those ideas are not deterimental to the conduct of effective diplomacy. With the release of these documents, no foreign head of state or anyone associated with the state in an important position, will openly “speak their minds” to a diplomat and diplomacy will become more opaque and hard, solid, reliable information will be difficult to access and assess. This release of documents completely discredits the idea of “deep background” discussions, which diplomats conduct with people not only to find information, but to also see if it can be verified and independently confirmed.

    In the case of Saudi Arabian king “speaking” his mind on Asif Ali Zardari, it must be pointed out that this news came as revelation to us; the people who do not have access to such levels of information sharing but this does not imply that this news is “new news”. It is quiet possible, that in various deep background discussions, between the United States’ representatives and the Pakistani officials, this information was widely known and shared but not reported in the press.

    The reason is that international diplomacy and politics operate on the idea of perception, where the reality is masked to protect its origins but once that reality is exposed to the light of the public knowledge, then questions will invaribly give birth to speculations attemtping to rationalize the differences between what was thought and what was actually real.

    In the case of Saudi Arabian king’s comments about Asif Ali Zardari, a better question is who in Pakistan did not know about the Saudi involvment in Pakistani affairs? Everyone in Pakistan knows about the Saudi involvement in Pakistani affairs, because all one has to do is chart the frequent pilgrimages, which Pakistani leadership undertakes to Saudi Arabia for “guidance” and “support” from a “brotherly Muslim country”.

    To answer your questions, directly, the king of Saudi Arabia is not concerned about the welfare or the progress of Pakistan, but is deeply concerned about the Saudi investment in Pakistan in terms of financing a Wabbahi varient of Islam and using Pakistan, as a base of projecting Saudi regional interests into Afghanistan and Iran.

    Pakistan is being paid petro-dollars by Saudi Arabia and it is getting oil, worth billions of dollars, on subsidies to act as a wedge of Saudi interests, in the region, against Iran. The Saudi regime has a pathological dislike for Shias and this intense hatred, based on religion, is made more acute by the fact that demographically speaking, the vast tracts of oil producing lands in Saudi Arabia are populated by Shias and the Saudi royal family has always harbored a paranoia about its Shia population’s intentions; debating their loyality to the Saudi throne and it was this fear, which made the Saudis finance Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in the 1980s. The Iran-Iraq war was actually a proxy war fought between the regime of Aytollah Khomeini and the Saudi royal family through Iraq.

    It was this same fear, which made Saudis support the Taliban in Afghanistan as a hedge against Iran and this as a reason, also explains the Taliban’s massacre of Shias in Mazar-e-Sharif in the 1990s. The Saudi support of the Taliban was purely motivated by a desire to prop an anti-Shia ideology on the doorsteps of Iran and to contain its influence.

    To understand this facet, we need to revisit the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which dethroned the Phalavi dynasty and replaced it with a Shia clerical regime. Prior to the Iranian revolution, Iran was the conduit of American influence and power in the region and this in turn, placed Iran as a critical pivot of regional power and Saudi Arabia’s geo-strategic importance, to the United States’ regional calculus of interests, was at best secondary and that too only as a source for American access to cheap and steady flow of oil.

    The revolution of 1979 changed the dynamics of regional power. With Iran in turmoil and the United States’ influence evicted; Saudi Arabia’s importance in the hierarchy of United States’ deperaration to retain a “regional footprint” increased, and so did their dependence on Saudi Arabia as a replacement to Iran, as a conduit of their regional influence. To the Saudis political interests, and aspirations to emerge as a regional power, on the basis of their petro-dollars liquidity; already whetted by their success in the shape of the oil embargo of the early 1970s, the situation was seen as cementing the Saudi regional role, but this meant that Iran could never be allowed to recover from its revolutionary shoals. To this end, the Saudis financed Iraq to fight a war with Iran and to saddle it with such a political situational reality that would allow the Saudis time to solidify their own importance and yet, keep Iran from re-challenging them for the role of a regional power.

    Now, let us return to Pakistan once more. The king of Saudi Arabia’s opinions will be the focus of plenty of discussions in the Pakistani electronic media, but all such dicussions will be sterile and impotent in affecting change within Pakistan. They will amont to nothing, because Pakistan is totally and completely dependent on Saudi oil subsidies and cannot risk losing that option, because it is finanally bankrupt (in real terms) and will not be able to afford oil at international prices on the open market. The curse of a modern army is that it cannot operate without oil and the Pakistani army, for its own operational requirements, needs a steady access to Saudi oil as it lacks suffient stockpiles of oil and its present stockpiles of oil, will in the most perfect of combat conditions, with everything working according to its expectations, allow it to conduct unrestricted operations for about 14-21 days before it runs out of oil and this has grave implications for its operational autonomy.

    Therefore, Pakistani army will never allow conditionalities to develop, which might endanger its own interests and well-being, as defined by its own institutional logic, and therefore; it will not toe the line against Saudi Arabia or allow anything, which puts its own interest at risk. The United States may be supplying the Pakistani military with weapons, but it is the Saudi oil which allows it to remain in a state of readiness and therefore, we need to place this caveat, as a missing piece, in understanding why the Pakistani army is not too keen on moving against the Taliban in North Waziristan. To the Saudis, the Taliban are the props of an end game in Afghanistan and when the United States leaves that nation, the Saudis will like to project their interests while keeping the Iranian interests out with the help of the Taliban; being financed by Saudi Arabia.

    (And in this sense, we should reference Rehman Malik’s statement as to the financing of these militant groups having origins in the Gulf states and the veiled references to the “hidden hand”, which in reality is not India, but Saudi Arabia that is responsible for financing the present wave of terror inside Pakistan).

    Asif Ali Zardari is beholden to the United States for his political existence and towards that end, he is willing be their Gunga Din and serve their needs and as long as the Pakistani military is committed to counter-insurgency operations, it will not be a threat to Asif Ali Zardari and PPP in power. It is for this very reason, why the decision to the start the military operations was, politically, passed on to the Pakistani military, because Asif Ali Zardari knows that the American pressure to start a military operation in North Waziristan cannot politically remove him from power, but if he does agree to it; Pakistan’s army 111 Brigade, stationed just a few kilometers away from the presidential palace, can remove him from power. The army will never start a military operation in North Waziristan, because it will not be too pleasing to the Saudis.

    Hence, what the statement of the Saudi king implies is that Asif Ali Zardari and his support for the American led war inside Afghanistan and Pakistan is not good for long term Saudi interests in the region, which is the propagation of a Pax Saudica based on the obedience of a Wahhabi political interpretation of Islam. It was the ideas behind the establishment of Pax Saudica, which made the Saudis finance the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program, for which Z. A. Bhutto in the wake of the loss of East Pakistan reoriented Pakistan’s foreign policy towards the Arab world for sake of getting money to keep Pakistan afloat and then his subsequent policies of introducing religion into Pakistani body politic. In General Zia-ul-Haq, the Saudis found a willing and obedient “Man Friday” to spread the establishment of a Pax Saudica and before Zia was scattered into burnt debris by a crate of mangos, he was actively seeking to push Wahhabism into the central Asian republics of the Soviet Union and it is also this reason, why China, Pakistan’s “all weather friend”, is concerned about the role of Pakistan, funded with Saudi petro-dollars, in spreading this Pax Saudica as it holds ill portents for China’s own internal security when it comes to the Chinese Muslims in Western China and why everyone is so “concerned” about the end game in Afghanistan vis-a-vis Pakistan and wants a role in the post-United States phase of Afghan politics – it is to keep a militant version of Islam, financed with Saudi Arabia’s messanic zeal for spreading Wahhabism, faciliated by Pakistan, from threatening their own political interests.

    It is this reason why Pakistan, as the crucible for a Pax Saudica, is seen as a “problem more than a solution” to the problem of Afghanistan by the regional actors and why India is shouting for the dismantling of the “terror camps” inside Pakistan. Pakistan is not a military threat to India, but Saudi petro-dollar support for a Wahhabi Islam is threat to Indian security if Pakistan politically implodes, which is the Indian nightmare that keeps the Indians wake at night.

    The real threat to Pakistan and that too, a Pakistan of Jinnah’s version, is the Saudi Arabian role in Pakistani politics and its support, both political and financial, in the process of the mutation of the state of Pakistan, from a an Islamic Republic to an Islamic Theocracy has been Saudi Arabia and as long as the Saudis are providing oil to the Pakistani army, regardless of what the WikiLeaks suggested, no religious based laws in Pakistan can be over turned and which is why, the real problem is not the mullah and we as a nation, should not blame the mullah for spread of intolerance in Pakistan and religious strive, but those who support and those who fund this evil.

    Do we really think all this; what is happening in Pakistan can be done without money? Like that famous line from Deepthroat of Watergate fame – follow the money and you will know who is to be held accountable!


    P.S.: Sorry for this long reply; as said before, connect the dots!

  28. Samachar

    Feroz Khan:

    No doubt, Babar Awan, Salman Taseer are playing their power games by their various statements about the blasphemy law. There are the dots to be connected and all that.

    But to return to the subject, I don’t see how the above relates to:
    Regardless of what one thinks of Babar Awan or his politics, one must develop the capacity to appreciate the truth when it is said and to applaud those, who say it.

    I don’t see Babar Awan uttering any fundamental truth.

  29. Tilsim

    I agree with you in the main regarding the problematic aspects of Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Pakistan. However it’s important to note that the Saudi’s are also trying to control their Al Qaeda problem as it threatens their order. In that respect, it’s not clear to me (just like in the case of Pakistan) where exactly does their alliance with militants in Pakistan begins and ends. I am pretty sure based on the evidence of subversion that these militants are not simply taking dictates from either Saudi or Pakistan otherwise we would not have the situation that we face in Pakistan and to a lesser degree in Saudi. I think the reality may be that elements in the Saudi state as well as the Saudi public are the ones that are providing the funding and support. The Saudis and their Pakistani State beneficiaries may see a distinction between the propogation of wahabism and militancy. A false distinction in my mind and one which needs to be exposed.

  30. T.S. Bokhari

    @Feroz Khan
    (November 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm)

    Thank you for the revealing analysis. So to sum up: It is Saudi oil behind ‘Allah Hafiz’ which has ousted our Khuda from ‘Khuda Hafiz’, about which Allama Iqbal had long ago said:
    “Buton se tum ko umidein khuda se noumidi
    Bata to sahi aour kaafri kia he”

    So your analysis boils down to the fact that the real politic in the Pakiland is war between Allah and Khuda, Saudi oil and Iranian oil. Presently our Savior (hafiz) is, accordingly, Allah not Khuda, Inshaallah, Mashaallah.
    Baqoul Faiz:
    “Ham jo taarik raahon mein maare gaey”,
    kia hamaara apna bhi koi khuda he jis se, baqoul, Iqbal, ham naaumeed ho gaey?

    So baqoul Ghalib:

    “Baq rahaa hoon janoon mein kia kia
    Kuchh nah samjhe khuda kare koi”


  31. @ Tilsim (November 30, 2010 at 12:50 am)

    Saudi Arabia may have its own Al-Qaeda, home grown, militant problems, but its response makes for an interesting observation. While Saudi Arabia is actively seeking to curtail militancy in the kingdom to protect its own ruling family’s tenure, it is supports militancy in Pakistan. In fact, Saudis support militant Islam, preaching a Wahhabi doctrine, internationally, but do not support such actions within Saudi Arabia. The unsaid agreement is that Saudi citizens can participate in such activities as long as such said activities remain focused outside of Saudi Arabia.

    How many militants, who are Saudi origin citizens, have been repatriated to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan? Has Saudi Arabia, which you said is fighting Al-Qaeda also, ever made a statement condemning the acts of terror in Pakistan and has any Saudi cleric ever issused a fatwa against such acts in Pakistan? Why is the Saudi intelligence chief so active in Pakistani politics? Why would Saudi Arabia be interested in brokering peace talks between the Taliban and NATO? Saudi Arabia claims to represent Muslim ummah, yet pleasds to the United States to attack Iran and its nuclear program. Why?

    Is it because Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to Saudi Arabia itself?

    What ever the reality of the Saudi role may be, we should ask questions about their role, but we dare not risk losing our Saudi oil subsidies and so, for the sake of oil; we will remain silent and watch Saudi dollars ruin our country.


  32. @ Samachar (November 30, 2010 at 12:27 am)

    Babar Awan statement reflects reality that the blasphemy law will never be revoked and no law minister can hope to change.


  33. @ Samachar

    Please read as follows: no law minister can hope to change it.