Better late than never. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), the premier official body of clerics, from all over Pakistan, belonging to various sects, have asked the government to revisit the sharia laws, especially the Hudood (the Evidence Act) and the Blasphemy Laws__ popularly known as the Black Laws.
These laws were introduced by the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan for eleven long years. Perhaps, the darkest years in Pakistan’s history, during which an elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged, all political parties were banned and citizens were lashed in public, to bring them in line with Zia-ul-Haq’s political vision.
Zia-ul-Haq, once finally entrenched in power, with the collaboration of Jamaat-e-Islami (a regressive Islamic fundamentalist political party), charted out a route to rule Pakistan according to his megalomaniac vision. After silencing all his opposition, he held local bodies polls on non-party bases and then alleviated his handpicked favorites to parliament, back then known as the Majlis-e-Shoora. The Majlis-e-Shoora, was responsible for amending, rather mutiliating the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan by endorsed these draconian laws, making them part and parcel of the constitution.
In 1989, he died in a plane crash but he left a lasting legacy in the form of these Black Laws, which haunts Pakistan to the present day. These laws are inimical to the rights of the women and the minorities.
According to the Hudood Laws, in a case of rape, the onus of proof is on the victim. In order to prove the charge, she has to produce the testimony of two male or four female eye witnesses. Because of this highly impossible demand set by the Hudood laws, the rapist due to lack of evidence is set free by the trial court. The human rights groups and other civil right activists have been demanding the parliament to abolish these Black Laws for years, but to no avail.
The other glaring misuse of these draconian laws, is in cases relating to blasphemy.The most recent example of the misuse of the blasphemy law was when a fourteen years old Christian girl named Rimshah Masih, suffering from Down’s Syndrome, was accused of tearing the pages of the Holy Quran and then setting them on fire.
The accuser was Hafiz Mohammad Khalid Chisti, the imam of the local mosque. On his FIR, the poor Christian girl was arrested by the police. It was only after the intervention of the Islamabad High Court, that she was released, spending three weeks behind bars. She was declared not guilty and Hafiz Mohammad Khalid Chisti was arrested for lodging a false FIR. But because of the fear of reprisals from fundamentalist Islamic militants no one came forward to depose against him and he was set free.
After a long and hard fought battle, the human rights advocates have been successful in changing the stance of the hard line clerics sitting in the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to ask the present government to look anew into these laws. Further, in a dramatic move they have also demanded of the parliament of Pakistan to amend the constitution and to award death punishment to any person who falsely accuses some one of blasphemy.
It is high time, that in the interest of the women and the minorities of Pakistan these Black Laws, are abolished, for good.
Written By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada