We all know about Aamir Liaquat and we have all sure heard of Aasia Bibi. One is a celebrated religious scholar, the other a poor Christian mother rotting in a Pakistani jail, victim to the State’s notorious blasphemy laws, which are primarily used to settle grudges and persecute our minorities. Before going any further, let me summarize these opprobrious laws:
|Pakistan Penal Code||Offense||Penalty|
|295-B||Defiling copy of Holy Quran||Imprisonment for life|
|295-C||Use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet||Death, or imprisonment for life, and liable to fine.|
|298-A||Use of derogatory remarks in respect of holy personages viz. Ummul Mumineen, Ahle-bait, Khulafa-e-Rashideen and Sahaaba||Three years imprisonment, or fine, or both.|
|298-B||Ahmadi using “Islamic epithets”, referring to place of worship as “masjid”, or saying the “Azan”||Three years imprisonment, and shall also be liable to fine.|
|298-C||Ahmadi calling himself a Muslim or referring to his faith as Islam||Three years imprisonment, and shall also be liable to fine.|
Aasia Bibi is a poor lady from Sheikhupura, Pakistan. In June of 2009, some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink the water she had fetched as they considered Christians to be “unclean.” An argument ensued. There had already been a feud between Aasia and a neighbor over some property. Aasia was quickly accused of making derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She was lynched by a mob before being assaulted by police for her alleged remarks, proof of which there is none. Aasia is presently on the death row in Pakistan. Two prominent statesmen have been assassinated after speaking for her and suggesting reform in the country’s infamous blasphemy laws.
Aasia has denied ever making any degrading remarks. Despite this, she remains imprisoned and recently spent her third Christmas in jail, praying and fasting.
On the other hand, It is well known that Aamir Liaquat (no, a fake degree does not make him a “Dr”) uttered multiple objectionable and humiliating remarks about the Khulafa-e-Rashideen and companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). If anyone was in doubt of this, video evidence of his statements abound. Accordingly, he stands guilty of blasphemy under section 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, which prescribes a three year imprisonment or a fine or both. However, Aamir gets away with no penalty. He enjoys complete immunity and continues to host a religious TV program on ARY. Apparently, other religious clerics have come to his rescue. They have issued an edict stating that his repentance on the 27th of Ramadan was true and in perfect accordance with the requirements of Shariah.
What are these requirements of Shariah? Crying out loud on National TV? Repenting during the 27th night of Ramadan?
Amongst other statements, the following saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was quoted in Aamir’s defense:
“Verily, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes (to get that back), lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am Your Rubb’.He commits this mistake out of extreme joy”. (Muslim)
Indeed, God is very forgiving and Merciful and quick to accept repentence.
However, this applies to all God’s men, including Aasia. This edict by the Mullahs leaves us with a number of questions. What secret gauge to determine the authenticity of one’s repentance do they possess? Why, for instance, are Aasia Bibi’s constant and regular pleas of innocence and repentance not genuine? Why, even when no evidence of her blasphemy exists, is she not a candidate for pardon?
The fact that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws do not apply to Aamir while punishing Aasia when both are equal “criminals” under the said law is evidence enough of the impotence of these laws. They are a tool in the hands of the Mullahs, used specifically against those they despise. They are yet another example of the deep-rooted hypocrisy that exists in our society and our apathy for the pain of the disadvantaged minorities.
I do not say that Aamir be punished. I merely say that Aasia be treated equal and allowed the freedom that Aamir enjoys. If defenders of the law insist it is valid, proof could be given in one of two ways – freeing Aasia or locking Aamir up! If not, we must all be very clear – this law is a farce! It is unjust and it must go!