‘Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab’ a BBC Radio 4 Presentation


On 4th January 2011, self-made millionaire businessman and governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was gunned down in the car park of a popular Islamabad market. He had been leading a campaign to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, after an illiterate 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, from a village in his province had been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Within hours of his death, a Facebook fan page for the assassin Mumtaz Qadri had over 2000 members, before site administrators shut it down. When Qadri was transferred to jail, he was garlanded with roses by a crowd of lawyers offering to take on his case for free. President Asif Ali Zardari, an old friend of Taseer’s, didn’t go to the funeral for fear of inflaming public opinion. Leaders of state-funded mosques refused to say funeral prayers for the slain governor. The Interior Minister even gave an impromptu press conference announcing that he too would kill any blasphemer “with his own hands”.

Using his extensive contacts in Pakistan, presenter Owen Bennett-Jones has interviewed Taseer’s family and friends and the family of the assassin. He has also secured access to court documents including the killer’s confession.

The programme includes both interviews and dramatic reconstructions.

Presented by Owen Bennett-Jones
Sound Design Steve Bond
Executive Producer Jeremy Skeet
Director John Dryden

A Goldhawk Production for BBC Radio 4


Memorial service in memory of Late Shahbaz Bhatti, Surrey, April 3/2011‏

Condolence meeting & memorial service in memory of Late Shahbaz Bhatti‏

Violence in the name of religion is on the continuous rise in Pakistan. Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, was gunned down in Islamabad on 2nd March, 2011, more or less just two months after the brutal assassination of Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer. Immediately after the Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility of Bhattí”s killing and justified it on the grounds of the minister suggesting changes in Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

Fraser Valley Peace Council in association with the Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians and the Indo-Canadian Workers Association is holding a condolence meeting and memorial service in sad remembrance of Shahbaz Bhatti. Please join us to express solidarity with voices of tolerance and reason in Pakistan.

The program details are as under:
Silence is not an option, Silence means more Deaths….
Condolence meeting and memorial service
In remembrance of Shahbaz Bhatti,
Slain Pakistani Christian leader, Pakistan’s Federal minister for minority affairs

Chief Guest
Shuja Alam, Consulate General of Pakistan.
Guest Speaker
Ujjal Dosanjh, MP
Gurpreet Singh (Director News, Radio India Ltd)
Dr. Saif Khalid (Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians)
Surrinder Sangha (Indo Canadian Workers Association)
Sunday, 3rd April, 2011 (1.30 pm sharp)
Newton Library, 13795 70 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3W 0E1

We the organizers strongly believe that the silence is not the option and time has come that the individuals and groups who believe in peace, freedom and human dignity should stand up and make their voices heard against the hard-liner, extremist and violent minority within Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

In Solidarity and peace,
Members and supporters of
Fraser Valley Peace Council
Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (Vancouver Chapter)
Indo-Canadian Workers Association


CPSHR (Vancouver) Supports Minority Rights in Pakistan

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) Statement sent on the eve of Vancouver’s March 15 Candle Light vigil.

The Quran says: God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just. (Quran, 60:8)

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) stands in solidarity with the struggles of Pakistani people for human rights and the longstanding injustice to non-Muslims in Pakistan.

We condemn the murder of Minister Shahbhaz Bhatti, for speaking out against the Blasphemy Laws, preceded by the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer who had taken up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian labourer who is currently imprisoned awaiting death by hanging under the Blasphemy Laws, an injustice which has caused a litany of suffering among Pakistan’s religious minority.

CPSHR believes that people of all religions who suffer oppression and violence must place perpetrators accountable to humanity outside their religious claims. Any beliefs, seemingly based on the Quran, the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes oppression and injustice, is far from its calling.

We add our voice to all those who are campaigning for the repeal of Blasphemy Laws to protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives, minority rights, freedom of speech and democracy.

Stop the persecution of all minorities in Pakistan!

Release Aasia Bibi and all those being victimized by discriminatory laws!

Long live international solidarity!

‘Assassinated Pakistani minister discussed death threats on Radio India’: Gurpreet Singh

By Gurpreet Singh
March 3, 2011

Pakistan’s minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti—who was assassinated March 2 for suggesting changes in the country’s blasphemy law—was determined to pay any price.

In an interview with this reporter on Surrey-based Radio India in January, Bhatti acknowledged that he had received death threats from radical Muslim clerics.

“I have been told that I would be beheaded,” he said at the time. “But I am ready to pay any price and will continue to work to bring changes in the blasphemy law, which is affecting both the minorities and the majority.”

Bhatti was shot dead in a broad daylight in Islamabad. A Muslim extremist group, Tehrik-i-Taliban, has claimed responsibility for his murder.

Bhatti, the only Christian in the Pakistan cabinet, said on Radio India that he was receiving threats following the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Taseer was shot by one of his own bodyguards on January 4.

At the time, Taseer was trying to help Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who is facing death sentence for allegedly making blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Mohammad.

Taseer’s assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, received commendation from many radical clerics in Pakistan.

Bhatti described Taseer as a martyr and suggested that those who glorified his killer are real blasphemers.

“The so-called custodians of religion should know that you can kill a person but not his ideas,” Bhatti said at the time.

He believed that the blasphemy law that was introduced by the late former Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq to please Muslim fundamentalists. Bhatti suggested that it needs sweeping changes as it is being widely misused, particularly against minorities in the theocratic Muslim state of Pakistan.

“Though the law is also affecting the majority Muslim community…the minorities have to suffer twice,” he commented.

In Bhatti’s view, the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a liberal Muslim, whereas radical clerics are trying to turn the country into a Taliban state.

“We have to make a choice between a tyrant Muslim state and an open and modern state Jinnah wished to create,” Bhatti stated.

Prior to his assassination, he appealed for dialogue on the controversial subject and emphasized that a man-made law can always be changed according to circumstances.

In addition to Bhatti, Sherry Rehman, a female Pakistani MP, has also receiving threats for supporting a bill seeking to amend the blasphemy law. An edict has been issued against her by the fundamentalist clerics.

Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Canada’s 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.


Repeal the Blasphemy Laws! Candlelight Vigil, Vancouver March 15/11

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

As you may know, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was recently assassinated for speaking out against the Blasphemy Laws and the resulting ongoing persecution of religious minorities. This was preceded by the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer who had taken up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian labourer who is currently imprisoned awaiting death by hanging under the Blasphemy Laws. Countless other Pakistanis continue to be persecuted because of these heinous legal relics of the Zia dictatorship in conjunction with a dangerous and unconscionable appropriation of Islam, deliberately distorted for the sole purpose of political or economic gain.

We believe that it is the Blasphemy Laws themselves and the resulting persecution and violence that are un-Islamic and contrary to both the tenets of Islam and the founding principles of the nation. We stand in solidarity with the struggles taking place in Pakistan to ensure equality for ALL Pakistanis and feel that we must speak out strongly where other voices are being threatened into silence through harassment and direct death calls.

Through this vigil, we want to begin building alliances with sister organizations and supportive individuals for effective lobbying to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the leaders of all political parties to repeal the Blasphemy Laws, and to abolish religious extremism and vigilantism. We believe, the Blasphemy Laws must be repealed in order to protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives, minority rights, freedom of speech and democracy.

Please stand with us. This issue requires your urgent support.

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

Please join us in a candlelight vigil to
– Protest the persecution of all minorities within Pakistan
– Push for the repeal of the blasphemy laws and all laws that discriminate against all minorities
– Honour all lives lost to extremist violence including the recent assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti
– Support the release of Aasia Bibi and all those now being victimized by discriminatory laws

For more info
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150985018294095

Organized by
Ad Hoc Group For the Repeal of Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan
Vancouver, BC

Drop Blasphemy Charges Against 17-Year-Old

Student’s Case Underscores Urgent Need to Repeal Abusive Law

(New York, February 2, 2011) – The Pakistani government should immediately drop blasphemy charges against a 17-year-old student and ensure his safe release from detention, Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities arrested Muhammad Samiullah on January 28, 2011, and charged him under Pakistan’s “blasphemy law,” article 295-C of the criminal code, for allegedly including derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad in his answers on a written school exam in April 2010. According to press reports, police at Shahra Noor Jahan Police Station in Karachi registered a case against Samiullah after receiving a complaint from the chief controller of the intermediate level education board. On January 29, a judicial magistrate, Ehsan A. Malik, ordered Samiullah sent to a juvenile prison pending trial.

“Pakistan has set the standard for intolerance when it comes to misusing blasphemy laws, but sending a schoolboy to jail for something he scribbled on an exam paper is truly appalling,” said Bede Sheppard, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s bad enough that a school official flagged it, but for police and judicial authorities to go ahead and lock up a teenager under these circumstances is mind boggling.”

The police have said that they cannot report exactly what was written in the exam paper as doing so would also amount to blasphemy.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty to which Pakistan is a party, guarantees everyone under age 18 the right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, and religion.

Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. Although this case involves a Muslim, Human Rights Watch has documented how the law is often used to persecute and discriminate against religious minorities in Pakistan.

Pakistan has applied the blasphemy law to children before, Human Rights Watch said. On February 9, 1995, Salamat Masih, a Pakistani Christian boy who was then 14 was sentenced to death for blasphemy by a lower court in Lahore, Pakistan, for allegedly writing derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad on the wall of a mosque. He was also sentenced to two years’ hard labor and fined. Masih was acquitted on February 23, 1995, because the court found that he was, in fact, illiterate. Masih then fled the country out of concerns for his safety. Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who acquitted Masih, was assassinated in his chambers at the Lahore High Court in 1997. The assassin, who was subsequently arrested, claimed to have murdered the judge as revenge for acquitting Masih.

Hundreds of people have been charged under section 295-C since it was added to the penal code in 1986 by Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the military ruler at that time. In 2009, authorities charged scores of people under the law, including at least 50 members of the Ahmadiyya religious community. Many of those charged remain in prison.

Pakistani and international human rights organizations have long called for the repeal of the blasphemy law. The law has come under renewed scrutiny in recent months as a consequence of a death sentence imposed on November 8, 2010, on Aasia Bibi, an illiterate farmhand from Sheikhupura district in Punjab province.

Extremists responded to government attempts to pardon Aasia Bibi with a campaign of intimidation, violence, and threats against critics of the law. On January 5, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was assassinated, and the man charged with the killing said he had committed the crime because Taseer had called the blasphemy law a “black law.” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s former information minister who in November proposed a parliamentary bill to amend the law, has also received death threats, which Pakistan’s government has ignored.

“While Pakistan’s government keeps up the mantra that it will not allow ‘misuse’ of the law, government inaction has only emboldened extremists,” Sheppard said. “Until this law is repealed, it will be used to brutalize religious minorities, children, and other vulnerable groups.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on children’s right issues, please visit:

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Pakistan, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-7908-728-333 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In New York, Bede Sheppard (English) +1-917-664-3727 (mobile)

Pakistani Ulema: Debating/Amending Blasphemy Laws not against Islam

In a debate on Blasphemy Laws on Dunya TV, a leading politician/activist brings the discussion to a point where the participating Ulema accepted the fact that debating or demanding to amend Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws is not against Islam.

This admission by the Ulema will have a positive impact on the struggle against the injustices brought about on non-Muslims and Muslims by the Blasphemy Laws. During the debate, it became obvious that when confronted on this issue, the Ulema will have to back down as no one called the killer of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer a ‘hero’ or a ‘Ghazi’ (soldier of god).

The debate was between Politician/Activist Nasim Zehra, Mufti Naeem of Banoria Madrassa, Ayaz Amir, Sarwat Qadri President Sunni Tehreek, Javed Jabbar, Maulana Salafi of Sattaria Trust, Iqbal Haider and Javaid Ghamdi.

From http://citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com/

Tariq Ali on Salman Taseer Shaheed by

Salman Taseer Remembered
Tariq Ali


Mumtaz Hussain Qadri smiled as he surrendered to his colleagues after shooting Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, dead. Many in Pakistan seemed to support his actions; others wondered how he’d managed to get a job as a state bodyguard in the carefully screened Elite Force. Geo TV, the country’s most popular channel, reported, and the report has since been confirmed, that ‘Qadri had been kicked out of Special Branch after being declared a security risk,’ that he ‘had requested that he not be fired on but arrested alive if he managed to kill Taseer’ and that ‘many in Elite Force knew of his plans to kill Salman Taseer.’

Qadri is on his way to becoming a national hero. On his first appearance in court, he was showered with flowers by admiring Islamabad lawyers who have offered to defend him free of charge. On his way back to prison, the police allowed him to address his supporters and wave to the TV cameras. The funeral of his victim was sparsely attended: a couple of thousand mourners at most. A frightened President Zardari and numerous other politicians didn’t show up. A group of mullahs had declared that anyone attending the funeral would be regarded as guilty of blasphemy. No mullah (that includes those on the state payroll) was prepared to lead the funeral prayers. The federal minister for the interior, Rehman Malik, a creature of Zardari’s, has declared that anyone trying to tamper with or amend the blasphemy laws will be dealt with severely. In the New York Times version he said he would shoot any blasphemer himself.

Taseer’s spirited defence of Asiya Bibi, a 45-year-old Punjabi Christian peasant, falsely charged with blasphemy after an argument with two women who accused her of polluting their water by drinking out of the same receptacle, provoked an angry response from religious groups. Many in his own party felt that Taseer’s initiative was mistimed, but in Pakistan the time is never right for such campaigns. Bibi had already spent 18 months in jail. Her plight had been highlighted by the media, women had taken to the streets to defend her and Taseer and another senior politician from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Sherry Rehman, had demanded amendments to the blasphemy laws. Thirty-eight other women have been imprisoned under the same law in recent years and soon after a friendly meeting between Yousaf Gillani, the prime minister, and the leader of the supposedly moderate Jamaat-e-Islami, a member of the latter offered a reward of ten thousand dollars to whoever manages to kill Bibi.

Taseer’s decision to take up Bibi’s case was not made on a whim. He had cleared the campaign with Zardari, much to the annoyance of the law minister, Babar Awan, a televangelist and former militant of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He told journalists he didn’t want the socio-cultural agenda to be hijacked by ‘lunatic mullahs’, raged against governments that had refused to take on fanaticism, and brushed aside threats to his life with disdain. He visited the prison where Bibi was detained – the first time in the history of the Punjab that a governor has gone inside a district jail – and at a press conference declared his solidarity with her. ‘She is a woman who has been incarcerated for a year and a half on a charge trumped up against her five days after an incident where people who gave evidence against her were not even present,’ he told an interviewer. He wanted, he said, ‘to take a mercy petition to the president, and he agreed, saying he would pardon Asiya Bibi if there had indeed been a miscarriage of justice’.

Two weeks after this visit Taseer was dead. I never much cared for his business practices or his political affiliations and had not spoken to him for 20 years, but he was one of my closest friends at school and university and the two of us and the late Shahid Rehman – a gifted and witty lawyer who drank himself to death many moons ago – were inseparable. Some joyful memories came back when I saw his face on TV.

It’s 1960. The country is under a pro-US military dictatorship. All opposition is banned. My parents are away. The three of us – we are 17 years old – are at my place and we decide that something has to be done. We buy some red paint and at about 2 a.m. drive to the Cantonment bridge and carefully paint ‘Yankee Go Home’ on the beautiful whitewashed wall. The next morning we scrub the car clean of all traces of paint. For the next few weeks the city is agog. The story doesn’t appear in the press but everyone is talking about it. In Karachi and Dhaka, where they regard Lahore as politically dead, our city’s stock rises. At college our fellow students discuss nothing else. The police are busy searching for the culprits. We smile and enjoy the fun. Finally they track us down, but as Taseer notes with an edge of bitterness, Shahid’s father is a Supreme Court judge and one of my aunts is married to a general who’s also the minister of the interior, so naturally we all get off with a warning. At the time I almost felt that physical torture might be preferable to being greeted regularly by the general with ‘Hello, Mr Yankee Go Home.’

Two years previously (before the dictatorship) the three of us had organised a demonstration at the US Consulate after reading that an African-American called Jimmy Wilson had been sentenced to death for stealing a dollar. On that occasion Salman, seeing that not many people had turned up, found some street urchins to swell our ranks. We had to stop and explain to them why their chant of ‘Death to Jimmy Wilson’ was wrong. Money changed hands before they were brought into line. Years later, on a London to Lahore flight, I met Taseer by chance and we discussed both these events. He reminded me that the stern US consul had told us he would have us expelled, but his ultra-Lutheranism offended the Catholic Brothers who ran our school and again we escaped punishment. On that flight, more than 20 years ago, I asked him why he had decided to go into politics. Wasn’t being a businessman bad enough? ‘You’ll never understand,’ he said. ‘If I’m a politician as well I can save money because I don’t have to pay myself bribes.’ He was cynical in the extreme, but he could laugh at himself. He died tragically, but for a good cause. His party and colleagues, instead of indulging in manufactured grief, would be better off taking the opportunity to amend the blasphemy laws while there is still some anger at what has taken place. But of course they are doing the exact opposite.

Even before this killing, Pakistan had been on the verge of yet another military takeover. It would make things so much easier if only they could give it another name: military democracy perhaps? General Kayani, whose term as chief of staff was extended last year with strong Pentagon approval, is said to be receiving petitions every day asking him to intervene and ‘save the country’. The petitioners are obviously aware that removing Zardari and replacing him with a nominee of the Sharif brothers’ Muslim League, the PPP’s long-term rivals, is unlikely to improve matters. Petitioning, combined with a complete breakdown of law and order in one or several spheres (suicide terrorism in Peshawar, violent ethnic clashes in Karachi, state violence in Quetta and now Taseer’s assassination), is usually followed by the news that a reluctant general has no longer been able to resist ‘popular’ pressure and with the reluctant agreement of the US Embassy a uniformed president has taken power. We’ve been here before, on four separate occasions. The military has never succeeded in taking the country forward. All that happens is that, instead of politicians, the officers take the cut. The government obviously thinks the threat is serious: some of Zardari’s cronies now speak openly at dinner parties of ‘evidence’ that proves military involvement in his wife Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. If the evidence exists, let’s have a look. Another straw in the wind: the political parties close to the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, have withdrawn from the central government, accusing it of callousness and financial malfeasance. True, but hardly novel.

Another necessary prerequisite for a coup is popular disgust with a corrupt, inept and failing civilian government. This has now reached fever pitch. As well as the natural catastrophes that have afflicted the country there are local wars, disappearances, torture, crime, huge price rises in essential goods, unemployment, a breakdown of basic services – all the major cities go without electricity for hours at a stretch and oil lamps are much in demand in smaller towns, which are often without gas and electricity for up to 12 hours. Thanks to the loan conditions recently imposed by the IMF – part of a gear change in the ‘war on terror’ – there have been riots against the rise in fuel prices in several cities. Add to this Zardari’s uncontrollable greed and the irrepressible desire of his minions to mimic their master. Pakistan today is a kleptocracy. There is much talk in Islamabad of the despised prime minister’s neglected wife going on a shopping spree in London last month and finding solace in diamonds, picking up, on her way back home, a VAT rebate in the region of £100,000.

Can it get worse? Yes. And on every front. Take the Af-Pak war. Few now would dispute that its escalation has further destabilised Pakistan, increasing the flow of recruits to suicide bomber command. The CIA’s New Year message to Pakistan consisted of three drone attacks in North Waziristan, killing 19 people. There were 116 drone strikes in 2010, double the number ordered in the first year of the Obama presidency. Serious Pakistani newspapers, Dawn and the News, claim that 98 per cent of those killed in the strikes over the last five years – the number of deaths is estimated to be between two and three thousand – were civilians, a percentage endorsed by David Kilcullen, a former senior adviser to General Petraeus. The Brookings Institution gives a grim ratio of one militant killed for every ten civilians. The drones are operated by the CIA, which isn’t subject to military rules of engagement, with the result that drones are often used for revenge attacks, notably after the sensational Khost bombing of a CIA post in December 2009.

What stops the military from taking power immediately is that it would then be responsible for stopping the drone attacks and containing the insurgency that has resulted from the extension of the war into Pakistan. This is simply beyond it, which is why the generals would rather just blame the civilian government for everything. But if the situation worsens and growing public anger and economic desperation lead to wider street protests and an urban insurgency the military will be forced to intervene. It will also be forced to act if the Obama administration does as it threatens and sends troops across the Pakistan border on protect-and-destroy missions. Were this to happen a military takeover of the country might be the only way for the army to counter dissent within its ranks by redirecting the flow of black money and bribes (currently a monopoly of politicians) into military coffers. Pakistani officers who complain to Western intelligence operatives and journalists that a new violation of sovereignty might split the army do so largely as a way to exert pressure. There has been no serious breach in the military high command since the dismal failure of the 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy, the first and last radical nationalist attempt (backed by Communist intellectuals) to seize power within the army and take the country in an anti-imperialist direction. Since then, malcontents in the armed forces have always been rapidly identified and removed. Military perks and privileges – bonuses, land allocations, a presence in finance and industry – play an increasingly important part in keeping the army under control.

Meanwhile, on a visit to Kabul earlier this month, the US homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, announced that 52 ‘security agents’ were being dispatched to the Af-Pak border to give on the spot training to Afghan police and security units. The insurgents will be delighted, especially since some of them serve in these units, just as they do in Pakistan.

Pointed to by Ijaz Syed

Father and Son get Life for blasphemy

Court convicts imam, son for blasphemy

MULTAN: A court has jailed an imam and his 20-year-old son for life on blasphemy charges in Muzaffargarh, court officials said on Tuesday.

The case follows the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his bodyguard last Tuesday, after he called for reform of the law that was recently used to sentence a *Christian woman to death.

Muhammad Shafi, 45, and his son Muhammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village which allegedly contained Quranic verses.

Judge Muhammad Ayub, heading an anti-terrorism court, handed down a life sentence to the pair on Monday, his assistant Faisal Karim told AFP by telephone.

The prosecution alleged organisers of the event, which commemorated the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birth, said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet”, Karim said. “The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each,” he said.

Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-faith rivalries, he said. afp


* Aasia Bibi

Request for Suo Moto action against vigilantism, incitement to violence

Love Life supports this initiative by the Citizens for Democracy to encourage the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to take sou moto action against religious extremists who are inciting violence against the innocent people of Pakistan for defending human rights.

It is vital to support all such endeavors for the safety of Pakistani citizens. Please endorse it here:

January 9, 2011
By Citizens for Democracy

Following is the text for an open request, prepared by a lawyer, addressed to the CJP for suo moto action against the qari of the Mohabat Khan mosque Peshawar who had offered a reward for the murder of Aasia Noreen if the Lahore High Court acquits her. The onus is on the CJP to take notice of both such brazen violation of law and of the criminal intent of the qari. It may also be used to file a legal petition, and would also be a public display of where we stand and what we expect of the Supreme Court when law is violated, verbally or through actually committing murder – whether in the name of ‘national interest’, personal interest or in the name of religion. Please endorse the request in the comments section if you agree.


The Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan,

We, concerned citizens wish to draw your Lordship’s attention to an urgent matter of extreme public importance and seek your Lordship’s indulgence in exercising Suo Motu jurisdiction to prevent violations of the most fundamental of personal rights and performance of the guarantee that “no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law” as enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Annexed with this petition are newspaper clippings and news items published in Urdu daily “…………” and on the internet disclosing that one Yousuf Qureshi, Imam of the Mohabbat Khan Mosque in Peshawar, has announced an award for the murder of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to death after being charged and tried for blasphemy. The announcement and its publication amount to offences under the Pakistan Penal Code which appear in the current scenario, where individual notions of what constitutes blasphemy seem to override the law, and remain, for reasons stated below, beyond the law enforcement agencies’ capacity to take cognizance of such serious offences.

The annexed reports are all prior in time to the assassination of Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab, who also appears, subject to the outcome of investigations by the relevant authorities, to have been a victim of one man, possibly incited by similar announcements and denunciations, committing a pre-meditated murder and justifying it on the basis of his belief that the assassinated former Governor had blasphemed by publicly voicing his opinion on a law.

The ongoing debate concerning the matter of Aasia Bibi and the assassination of the former Governor poses an imminent threat much bigger in scale compared to what has been referred to as “honour killings”. Given the religious sensitivities surrounding the issue at the heart of the matter, this matter can be reasonably taken up only by the esteemed Supreme Court of Pakistan to finally and conclusively determine the criminality in inciting murder in the midst of hysteria around allegations of blasphemy.

The signatories to this Petition have been alarmed by the contents of the annexed news reports and believe the same to be brazen declarations of criminal intent and commission of a crime but lack the means of setting the course of law in motion on account of lack of personal knowledge ad having come to know of the statements through publications in the media. Even otherwise, we believe that the matters calls for nothing less than direct intervention by your Lordship given the inability of the investigating authorities to investigate the matter without fear of personal security of the investigating officers.

The signatories to this Petition pray that your Lordship may initiate proceedings in the matter Suo Motu and protect the country from misguided individuals founding another criminal institution of Customary Killing in violation of Article 9 and 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan.