November 14, 2018
Asia Bibi Case and Backlash from Islamic Parties
By Saeed Qureshi
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947 there have been countless protests and strikes by the Religious parties and denominations to Islamize Pakistan with their line of faith. The majority religious groups under the fold of Sunnism have not only been fighting against the other denominations such as Shias but also blocking the right of religious freedom to the minorities within Islam and out of it.
It should be noted that the creation of Pakistan was opposed tooth and nail by the religious groups. The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e- Azam was dubbed as infidel by the religious right. But after the creation of Pakistan the major religious Sunni outfits have been endeavoring to hijack the state and change it into an orthodox Sunni State.
The latest demonstration of that distasteful bigotry has been witnessed in case of a Christian girl Asia Bibi who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her on the basis of insufficient evidence. However, she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict has been reviewed.
The Supreme Court’s decision sparked prolonged and mammoth protests staged in big cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar Multan and Karachi for three days by the so called religious outfit Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi a fanatic and firs spitting religious rabble rouser. It was also joined by Jamaat-e-Ahle-Hadees, another religious extremist party. Many cities in Pakistan remained in standstill causing untold sufferings to the people including the movements, traveling and buying foodstuff and other dailies necessities. The PTI government had to broker a compromise by conceding to almost all the conditions and demands of Tehrik-i-Labbaik Pakistan. While calling for "peaceful" protests, the JUI-F chief Fazalur Rehman said that Asia Bibi's release was "not acceptable at any cost".
One is reminded of the victory of the city of Mecca by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) on 11 December 629 AD. Those people who tormented him, plotted to kill him and forced his sudden and clandestine departure to Medina lined up before him. He asked them, "O Quraysh, what do you think of the treatment that I should accord you?" They said, "Mercy, O Prophet of Allah. We expect nothing but good from you." Thereupon Hazrat Muhammad declared: "I speak to you in the same words as Yusuf spoke to his brothers. This day there is no reproof against you; Go your way, for you are free.” Why Asia Bibi is not forgiven for her utterance that she has apologized and even negated of uttering it.
In his latest address to the nation, Pakistan’s incumbent prime minister Imran Khan Niazi has vowed to run Pakistan in accordance with the Quran (holy book of Muslims) and Sunna (Islamic jurisprudence). He has been making this commitment even on earlier occasions. At the same time, he has been pledging to put Pakistan on the road to an advanced and modern country. He has vehemently expressed his resolve to bestow religious and civic liberties as well as social order that one can witness in the advanced and developed countries around the world. When the legal, political and social system would be the replica of the Islamic state of Medina, the pristine purpose and goal of a modern Islamic state would be achieved.
First of all, it would be utterly difficult that such a milestone can be achieved in five years that the PTI government would remain in place. It might be a challenging task to absolutely recast the state of Medina in the modern times. There is a time gap of 1500 years between now and the pristine state of Medina. The early rule and laws that served the society and the people fifteen centuries ago may not work properly except the elements of faith and certain religious obligations that are five in number. These are faith in God, angels, prophets, the difference between the principles of good and evil and the belief in the life after death. We are aware that the devout Muslims have unshakeable belief in these injunctions.
In Saudi Arabia particularly and other Islamic countries including Malaysia and Indonesia generally, a model of the pristine Islam state of Medina can be witnessed. But beyond that these are far behind and primitive in various domains of modern state such as respect for law, prosperity, scientific advancement, material progress, societal peace, equality, impregnable justice system, a well-entrenched democratic culture and so on that these states are blessed with. Pakistan and many third world religious states are far behind the United States and the European states in good governance, a truly democratic order, societal peace and rule of law. The fusion of the socio-cultural freedom and galore of human rights and democratic political culture are not seen anywhere in the present Islamic states.
One would certainly be doubtful if the existing Islamic countries are the replica of the State of Medina and being run on true pattern of an Islamic polity. Islamic system of government is basically based upon choice of head of state due to his piety and Islamic fervor. But in the modern state the vote and opinion of the people are basic yardsticks for choosing a head of state. Islam allows Ijtihad which means modifications according to the needs and imperative of times. As such the State of Medina and the rule of Quran and Sunna will have to be modified to conform to the needs and contours of a modern Islamic state. So, let us see and watch as to how these huge millstones could be achieved. The ultraright and fanatic Muslim believers would not allow a secular person or someone from the minority parties and denominations to be the head of state although administratively he or she might be the best.
I feel that orthodox Muslims in Pakistan can shake up the entire Pakistan with demonstrations and sits-in even after the release of Christian female Asia Bibi for blasphemy. Although she served years in prison which was harsh and longish, yet fanatic Muslims want her to be hanged and at the same time not to be sent abroad. Then how come that the un-islamic minorities and dissident religious sects would be tolerated and live peacefully with equal rights in the state of Medina envisioned by Imran Khan and orthodox Muslims. The division between the sects within Islam and also between the Muslims and non-Muslims, would keep Pakistan on the tenterhooks of such hooliganism, lawlessness, processions and boycotts by the diehard believers of respective sects within the fold of Islam.
The writer is a Senior Journalist, Former editor of Diplomatic Times and a Former Diplomat.