Unhinged Society

By – Shamim Masih

The straightforward fact is, when I am writing these lines; I find no hope provision of justice and protection to marginalized portion of the society. I am representative of the most vulnerable community of the country, largely dealt under Islamic militancy. Until 2006, rape in Pakistan was a crime that was largely dealt with under Islamic law. Women had to produce four male witnesses to the crime. The failure to do so could mean being charged with adultery. On the other hand, anyone can be charged with blasphemy and be immediately detained without safeguards or the opportunity for bail. Under this law, the only evidence needed is one “reliable” man’s word. Ill-treatment and torture of the accused in the custody are common practice. Judicial proceedings can take years, resulting in innocent victims languishing in jails with pending trails or appeal. Judges become biased and legal representative and care takers are threatened. Political leaders, police and officials in the judicial system often collude in the victimization of the poorest in society.
Because the blasphemy law is open to abuse it has become a powerful tool to ignite religious extremism, encourage hostility towards minority groups and give Islamic zealots opportunities to take the law in their hands. During the last few years many Christians have been falsely accused of blasphemy under this law – often mischievously by people with selfish motives and the number is rising. Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently abused to settle personal scores.
According to a study by USAID, Pakistani courts roots in the British colonial system means that across much of the country they are viewed with considerable suspicion, and that skepticism has fueled doubts about their legitimacy. Questions about legitimacy are compounded by the low level of efficiency, the prevalence of delays, the inferior quality of legal training, corruption, and perception that the court system is a tool for the delay of justice, manipulated by rich and/or powerful interests in the society.
In the same situation; proceedings of the current blasphemy cases are interrupted. Attorney and caretakers are being threatened; pamphlets are dropped in their offices warning them to disassociate themselves from blasphemy cases dealings. Christians face number of problems because of other laws concerning marriage, divorce, guardianship and inheritance. In cases of abduction of Christian women, the Muslim man can declare that his abducted wife has converted to Islam. Thus marriage, solemnized under the family laws of non-Muslims, can be dissolved with immediate effect.
In this situation; what we need to do, either to sit and wait for anyone to intrude or take some sold steps, to hold their horses. If Pakistan wishes to overcome its security issues, it must reject militancy in its entirety, even so called freedom fighters. We have exhausted all options of talks; a military option seems like the only step to curb elements that destabilize the country. In long term, the government needs to support efforts to promote interfaith harmony and generate dialogue that can find a middle ground on ideological divisions. The future of vulnerable minorities looks bleak in a country that is religiously sensitive and combustible to variance in ideologies. The state has failed to perform its primary duty of protecting its citizens. Meanwhile, the minorities remain in fear and fight for survival.

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