History tells us that Blasphemy law was introduced in late 1927 in the subcontinent during British Raj to thwart the communal riot and offences relating to religion between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and the new emerging creed of Christians. Accordingly Section 295 was introduced in Indian penal Code as part of Indian Act XLV of 1860. After the independence from British Raj and partition of subcontinent in 1947 Pakistan inherited the same Penal code and renamed it as Pakistan penal Code.
Original Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object, which remained effective to thwart any communal riots during British Raj. After the creation of Pakistan this land with about 98% of Muslims mostly illiterate and conservative, the law kept on sitting idle till the time that political adventurist, Mr. Z A Bhutto with his ambitions to introduce socialist economic reforms wanted to devise the ways to mobilize the Religious conservative forces in the country to bring them in his fold.
After the debacle of Fall of Dacca in 1971, Pakistan was just coming out of its disastrous ordeal of seceding of its eastern wing of East Pakistan. The nation was utterly dismayed and in decent. There was a dire need that a recipe of unity for the nation be found. They say that all the new doctrines they take birth during the disastrous periods of nations. ZA Bhutto saw the opportunity to introduce some new doctrine which may incite theocratic and religious forces.
‘Give a dog a bad name and hang him’ is a most common feature of ‘sticking power of labeling’ in the ‘New Age doctrines’ and Mr. ZA Bhutto a shrewd ambitious man selected the most docile and humble creed of Ahmadies Muslims (Qadiyanis) in Pakistan to make them a scapegoat and new doctrine of impersonalizing the Ahmadiyya sect by labeling them as infidels was adopted.
Of course anti –Ahmadiyya sentiments were already found in certain religious circles as a latent current against Ahmadies for their particular belief of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (as) who claimed to be the Promised Messiah and a Nabi. Mr. Bhutto found it a golden opportunity to put Ahmadies against the common belief of mainstream Muslims that there is no prophet after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the last of all the prophets. Rightly or wrongly, he exploited this version to get them declared a Heretic group in Islam. The religious parties foreseeing no future otherwise to be in power also saw it as a fair shake and joined hand with Bhutto to let this bill pass in the national assembly. Thus a Constitutional amendment called a Second Amendment Act of 1974 was made and Ahmadies (Qadiyanis) were declared— non –Muslim and thrown out of pale of Islam.
This move of Bhutto went well in the religious conservative masses in the country in his favour and he saw himself the most popular Muslim leader, at least in Asia. Now in public he was known as Qaid e Awam. He started dreaming even to lead the entire Muslim world and in 1980 called upon all the Muslim leaders to hold a Muslims Summit Conference of Islamic world in Lahore.
But soon his dreaming of a dream to live in a world of dreams was shattered that although now Pakistan was being recognized as the Fortress of Islam but another adventurist, his Armed Forces Chief of staff General Zia ul Haq came in his way and in a bloodless coup took over the rein of government from him. He declared a martial law in the country and a long dark age of dictatorial regime started. General Zia ul Haq to clear his own way eventually sent Mr ZA Bhutto down the gallows. He too used the recipe of making Ahmadies a scapegoat to further his ruthless regime. He passed several more Anti Ahmadiyya legislations and introduced various ordinances to subject them to his inhuman arbitrary laws and made it sure that Ahmadies being the blasphemous were reduced to the status of a third class citizen.
During the days of Military Dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, numbers of sections in the blasphemy laws were added in Pakistan Penal Code. In 1982, defiling or desecrating of Holy Quran was declared as offence with punishment of imprisonment of life (25 years) via section 295 B. In 1986, through 295 C the blasphemy of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was declared offence with death penalty or imprisonment of life. These two sections are cognizable, non compoundable and non bailable. Furthermore, earlier in 1980, the blasphemous remarks or acts towards companion (SAHABA), family members of Holy Prophet (PBUH) was declared as an offence punishable with three years of sentence, in section 298-A. Whereas, in 1984, certain Muslim like activities and practices of Qadiyani group were declared unlawful via section 298 B and 298 C both with three years sentence.
During his tenure the religious fervency and extremism under the pretext of defending the prophet hood (Tahafaz e khatum e nabowat) of Prophet Muhammad (saw) was so escalated that life of Ahmadies in Pakistan was turned to misery. People felt free to take the law in their own hand and kill or torture Ahmadies. Destroying their businesses, properties and desecration of Ahmadies book libraries and Mosques became the common features. On the behest of Zia’s regime the fiery clerics were sponsored to deliver special sermons and to air the anti- Ahmadiyya rhetoric to dehumanize them. Hundred of the Ahmadies fled the country to escape the persecution.
Having achieved a desired swell in Islamic extremism in the country; a new force was seen being raised and trained as the Mujahedeen forces in Pakistan to fight a ‘Islamic Jihad’. The think tanks and policy makers of USA could gauge this development and potential of Mujahedeen and offered Pakistan on a price to push them as fodder into a long Afghan war on behalf of USA to dislodge Soviet Union.
Mujahedeen Jihadists were excessively funded and adequately equipped with US weapons to fight the Soviet Union forces in occupation of Afghanistan. The Mujahedeen Jihadist proved to be very ferocious fighters that within few years of time, Soviet Union a super power was forced to pack up from Afghanistan depleted and eventually it disintegrated. Pakistan was heftily rewarded for that. US now was the only Super power in the world. Invariably Pakistan as a blue eyed, now was in the hands of American. It has proved to be the most loyal mercenary who could fight any war for monies as a proxy.
Zia’s striking successes in Afghanistan also rekindled the old fire of Pan-Islamism and for the unification of Islam. He started considering himself Ameerul Momineen in Islamic world but—- not withstanding that he was simply working as a US proxy in Afghan war and not knowing that when the US proxies have passed their sell by dates; history tells us that Gallows always awaits them at the end. As expected, reportedly a covert operation came in play and General Zia was killed in a bomb blast while in the sky travelling in a military aero plane.
In Pakistan the Islamists were finding that use of Doctrine of blasphemy law had brought lot many successes in the country; from mobilizing the conservative Muslim masses and successfully running the dictatorial regime of Ziaul Haq and to the raising of the Mujahedeen forces to fight wars in the name of Islamic Jihad and mint monies. This was seen a great achievements to be carried forward. So all this —– didn’t end with the demise of General Zia Ul Haq.
In 1991 Mr. Nawaz sharif, the second successor prime minister after Zia ul haq, (brought into world of politics by Ziaul Haq); in order to keep the fervent religious parties in his pocket and also prove that he was a notch above his predecessor General Zia ul Haq; once again stirred the Ahmadiyya blasphemy issue and in order to show that he could take the most stringent step; he while upholding the punishment of death penalty in the blasphemy law, moved the bill for removal of ‘or imprisonment of life’ from Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Later it was only during the early days of Benazir Bhutto’s second government that this amendment bill was finally adopted. Again the government was in a hurry to push the bill because the house was about to be prorogued.
Leaving the state of Ahmadies and their sufferings in Pakistan aside; this law especially in the hands of sectarian war lord is the most bloody weapon that is ever wielded. … One may see that this weapon given in every man’s hand that they may let loose upon even his neighbour that he might not like and then—- blood and distress, turmoil, sorrow, misery, war, and destruction may sweep the face of the land around us.
But this weapon, these war lords may not like to abandon it so easily and any repealing effort may not go well. But one thing can certainly be done to take the sting out:–
We may not be able to repeal Blasphemy Law…. but we may certainly ‘Amend it… to Extend it’—to all the other religions that people lead…especially the Pakistan penal code sections 295B and 295C.