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The blasphemy law in Pakistan prescribes harsh penalties to anyone 'insulting' Islam, Koran or the Prophet. The latest victim of the law is a Hindu veterinary doctor in Sindh province, which is home to a large number of Hindu families. His crime was his refusal to attend to an ailing animal in the farm of an influential Muslim neighbor late at night. But the charge against Ramesh Kumar, was downright ridiculous: He had wrapped medicine in a page torn from the Koran. The doctor would have to be completely insane to do such a thing in a country that styles itself as the land of the pure.
Fanatic Pakistanis do not listen to reason. Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehman, a local leader of the religious political party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami, told BBC Urdu that the doctor had done his act deliberately. And angry crowds ransacked and set on fire the vet's clinic, a medical store, and some shops owned by Hindus and burnt tyres on road in Phuladyon town in Mirpurkhas district in the province. As the situation spiraled out of control, police summoned para-military Rangers to deal with mob violence, and shifted the doctor to an unknown place for safety.
This was not the first such incident of personal enmity getting morphed into a blasphemy crime. Pakistan Hindu Council has complained in the past of minority community members being targeted under the blasphemy law by Muslims just to settle to scores. Once someone has been accused of blasphemy, before their case has even gone to trial, they and their families come under attack. Well, it is the norm across Pakistan.
Some blasphemy cases involving the Christians have triggered an international outcry. Like the case of Asia Bibi, a farm labourer from the village of Ittanwala, about 70 kilometers south-east of Pakistan's cultural capital, Lahore. She was sentenced to death in 2010. After spending nine long years on death row, she was freed by the Supreme Court, and flown to Canada in secrecy as nobody in Pakistan could guarantee her safety.
The way Bibi, also known as Asia Noreen, got sucked into a blasphemy case show cases Pakistan's fault-lines as a modern state. On a hot summer afternoon, Muslim co-workers at a farm asked her to fetch water from a nearby well. The poor illiterate lady did as directed but took a sip of the water before handing over the water jar to them. Conservative Muslims in Pakistan believe that non-Muslims are impure and therefore don't like to eat or drink with people of other faiths. So much so, Asia's co-workers became furious, branded her as "dirty" and declared that she was not worthy of drinking from the same cup as them.
To cut a long story short, Asia Bibi soon stood accused of insulting the Prophet, beaten by a mob and lodged in solitary confinement. And when the apex court set her free, the flipside of Imran Khan regime was exposed. The military-propped government came to power last year with the promise to usher in a 'Naya' (new) Pakistan. But it stooped to buy peace with the religious right who bayed for the scalp of the judges, and encouraged mutiny within the army, declaring that the chief of the army was an apostate.
Attacks on Christian and Hindu minorities in Pakistan are clearly a part of the Islamists'plan to usher in the Sharia rule in the country. Their work suits the all-powerful military establishment which pump - primes the jihadi enterprise to achieve geo-strategic and political goals in Afghanistan and India. No surprise scores of Christians and Hindus have faced music on the charge of "desecrating the Koran" or "blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad", often fueled by personal disputes.
Yet, strangely, Pakistan under Imran Khan is making loud noises about the 'sufferings' of the Muslim minority in India. It refuses to acknowledge its own home truth apparently to divert public opinion from the economy, which is in the dumps, and from the global concern over the terror factories that are not yet shutdown despite the warnings of Paris based anti- terror financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force - FATF. How long Pakistan will be wiggling with discomfort and humiliation and persist with its sham 'peace overtures to India?
Nemesis India has openly snubbed Pakistan by refusing to invite its prime minister to the second term swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi. Now comes another snub from India a no use of Pak airspace by Prime Minister Modi for his visit to Kyrgyzstan capital, Bishkek, for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. His plane opted for the route over Oman,and Iran to reach the Central Asian nation.
A clear message to Pakistani leadership that "talks and terror" cannot go together. It also pours cold water on Imran Khan's plans for 'meeting' Modi on the sidelines of SCO summit. "Between 1950 and December 2015, when Modi dropped in on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, leaders of the two countries had met 45 times but durable peace remained a mirage.
As noted diplomat writer, Hussain Haqqani, says Pakistan's hostility towards India emanates "from its national ideology based on religious identity and antipathy cultivated by the military that dominates the country".The blasphemy law fits this officially sanctified narrative to the dismay of minority Hindus and Christians, who account for less than two percent of Pakistan's population.
1. Hindu Veterinarian Is Latest to Face Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan bySalman Masood in The New York Times, May 30, 2019
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