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Pakistan Ulema Council’s Tahir Ashrafi speaks against the ‘misuse of blasphemy laws’

September 5, 2012

Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council Tahir Ashrafi has also spoken out in support of Rimsha Masih. Photo: W Khan/EPA

Pakistan Ulema Council’s Tahir Ashraf spoke out against the misuse of the ‘blasphemy laws’ shortly after Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated – see this report Sentiments were exploited against Salmaan Taseer: Ashrafi, published in Daily Times on January 9, 2011. He recently spoke out in support of Rimsha Masih, the minor Christian girl accused of ‘blasphemy’ (even before the false evidence information came out). He also had an op-ed  ‘Misuse of the blasphemy law’ published recently in Express Tribune.

Text of the Daily Times report of Jan, 2011 below.

Sentiments were exploited against Salmaan Taseer: Ashrafi

* Pakistan Ulema Council chairman says whosoever declared it was justified to kill Taseer should come on media to prove his claim before nation

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi has admitted that late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was right in his claims regarding the misuse of the blasphemy law against minorities and said that sentiments were exploited against him, a private TV channel reported on Saturday.

Ashrafi maintained that there had been several statements of Taseer, in which he had condemned the blasphemy, adding that not only the late governor, but many Ulemas, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leaders had also spoken in similar manner.

He pointed out that none of them was a mufti, who decreed that Taseer had turned to be a non-believer, saying that it was the work of a mufti and Darul Iftaa to deliver such edicts.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman and Abul Khair Zubair, a few days back, maintained that no authentic mufti gave an edict of killing Taseer, the channel quoted Ashrafi as saying.

The PUC chairman questioned that why the blasphemy law was not implemented when on 12th Rabbiul Awwal of this Islamic year (in 2010), some 750 copies of the holy Quran and several books of Hadith and Tafseer were set on fire by unidentified people at late Allama Ziaul Haq Qasmi’s residence in Faisalabad and a footage of this incident was also present.

“After the incident, Sunni Ittehad Council Chairman Sahibzada Fazal Karim sought registration of an FIR under 295-C against Zahid Qasmi, son of late Qasmi. Both the sides, sects ‘Deobandi’ and ‘Barelvi’, requested police seeking FIRs against each other, but the issue was resolved later,” he recalled and questioned why such a settlement was not counted as blasphemy or profanity, the channel reported.

Ashrafi also questioned that the case of Aasia Bibi was in court and “if the high court releases her”, the clerics would, then, accept this decision or not. Adding to the same point, he said, “If the clerics accepts her release by the high court, then who would be responsible for Salmaan Taseer’s blood.”

He strongly criticised those who had been providing safety to the murdered the governor, the channel said.

Ashrafi further said, “If an accused says that he/she has not committed blasphemy, even Ulema-e-Ahnaf have the capacity to acquit him/her.” Salmaan’s matter was political, he added.

He questioned why this matter gained attention when Fazlur Rehman quitted the coalition. He also said that Mazhar Saeed Kazmi, brother of former religious minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, was now saying that it was not appropriate to offer the funeral prayers of Salmaan Taseer. “This is so unfortunate. Why Kazmi did not talk such thing when he was enjoying the ministry of religious affairs,” he added.

Neither Salmaan Taseer was Rajpal nor Mumtaz Qadri was Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed, the PUC chairman said and claimed that even the most impious person could not dare to commit blasphemy. Salmaan’s statement was on record and he could not even imagine doing so, he maintained.

He recalled that Taseer’s father MD Taseer was the person who provided a death-bed to Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed and Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari called Taseer’s mother his sister. He said that the governor could be a bold person, offensive to a maulvi but he could not be a blasphemer. Ashrafi said that the one who declared that it was justified to kill Salmaan Taseer should come on media and prove it in front of the nation.

Senior Analyst Syed Mumtaz Shah, who also participated in the TV programme, said that, in 1981, there was a baton-carrying mob, in which two parties were raising different voices on Naara e Risaalat and were harming each other. One was saying Ya Rasool Allah and the other was saying Muhammad-ur Rasool Allah, he said, adding that cases were filed against each other.

Renowned Journalist Abbas Athar said that Barelvi ulemas banned offering Salmaan’s funeral prayers, adding that they had also remarked on the funerals of Lal Mosque’s girls that they were against the state. He questioned that did Mumtaz Qadri, being on duty, showed his loyalty with the state by shooting the governor. He asked that why not his treachery be highlighted. He also said that the biggest problem in the blasphemy law was that “when anyone gets blamed for committing blasphemy then it suddenly becomes a mob’s law”. He said that whenever it would be exposed there would be money behind the assassin and conspiracy too, adding that Mumtaz Qadri was not alone in it.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) member Azam Nazeer Tararr advocate said that everyone was agreed on the punishment of blasphemy, but haste was used while imposing it. He said that an inquiry should be made for complaints against the government officials, adding that “our problem is that the law is handed over to those who don’t have any training to bear the public pressure and use to surrender in front of it”. He said that according to the constitution, everyone had the right to defend themselves, adding that Article 4 and 9 defended the basic rights of living. He further said that extrajudicial killing was the violation of the constitution and human rights, adding that Taseer’s murder was an extrajudicial killing, which could not be justified.

He further said that there was a decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) former chief justice, Khawaja Sharif, present in the light of a Hadith saying that “the Prophet (PBUH) said that 10 guilty ones can be freed but no innocent can be punished on the base of doubt”, the channel said.

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