Pakistan and religious tolerance are two parallel lines that never seem to meet. In a long list of incidents which prove that Pakistan is one of the most radicalized country on the planet, another mind-scratching incident has been added. This time around, Khwaja Asif, a leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has found himself in a spot of bother as a leader of Pakistan’s ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has sought to file a case of blasphemy against Asif claiming that his recent remarks over religion had hurt the sentiments of Muslims.
Asif in his recent National Assembly speech had said that ‘no religion is superior to the other’. The PML-N leader said that Islam and all other religions of the world are equal. The moment Asif said these statements he found himself in the middle of a tornado of controversy.
“His words are against the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and are tantamount to blasphemy against Islam,” said the complainant Advocate Qamar Riaz.
According to a report in a Pakistani news portal, Riaz quoted a few verses from the Quran in his application too. Asif committed blasphemy in the light of those verses and hurt the sentiments of all Muslims, he said.
This is not the first time that such a bizarre case has come up in Pakistan. The legislators and the radicals of the country have been using the Blasphemy law to cull any voice that goes against the popular discourse.
Not the first incident of Blasphemy law
In June last month, Sajid Soomro, a Pakistani professor of Sindhi literature at Khairpur’s Shah Abdul Latif University in Sindh province, was arrested on Blasphemy charges by the Police.
The professor is known to Pakistani authorities for his dissenting views and criticisms of the country’s most powerful clerics.
“Sajid has written things critical of seminaries, religious beliefs, the concept of heaven, and polygamy. He has also criticized Pakistan. Therefore, he has been registered under the relevant sections of the law,” Hakim Ali Kalhoro, a local Sindh police officer was quoting as saying at the time of Sajid’s arrest.
Two Christian brothers in Pakistan were hanged after they were charged with the Blasphemy laws in 2018. The accused brothers had been convicted for “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”, under the archaic blasphemy provisions of Pakistan’s penal code.
The Islamization of Pakistan, in its true sense, began with the Zia Ul Haq regime, which was one of the most active in pushing Pakistan towards intense radicalism, by following the object of creating a Nizam-e-Mustafa, that is, “Rule of Prophet”.
He even institutionalized the inclusion of Islamists in the judicial set up of Pakistan. Draconian laws based on promoting Islamisation of Pakistan such as the blasphemy law and several other misogynistic laws were enacted.
His legacy remains unchallenged by even the so-called civilian governments that succeeded him and therefore Pakistan, which had started as an Islamic Republic has now radicalized further into a Sharia law State. Therefore the aforementioned incidents shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.