PAKISTAN – Government surrenders to demands of Islamist protestors over “blasphemy”
Authorities in Pakistan have surrendered to the demands of Islamist protestors, with the government forcing the resignation of the country’s Law Minister and guaranteeing “no leniency” to those convicted of “blasphemy.”
Zahid Hamad resigned on 27 November after weeks of violent protests by Islamists, who accused him of “blasphemy” after he proposed changing the declaration made by candidates running for political office locally and nationally.
The declaration – required for candidates running in any vote supervised by the country’s electoral commission – previously required them to “solemnly swear” to Muhammad being Islam’s “last prophet,” wording which was altered to “I believe.” Islamists alleged the change opened the way for members of the Ahmadi sect – who are viewed by them as apostates – to potentially run for office as declared Muslims. Ahmadiyyas were officially defined as non-Muslims by the government in 1974.
The street demonstrations, which paralysed cities across Pakistan, were ended after representatives from the country’s powerful military oversaw negotiations, in which the government caved in to Islamist demands.
As well as the resignation of the Law Minister, the government accepted a raft of demands made by the leaders of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Islamist party. The government agreed to guarantee that “No difficulty will be faced in registering cases under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code” (the “blasphemy” law which criminalises “defiling the name of Muhammad” and carries the death penalty); and “No leniency will be given to those convicted by courts for blasphemy.”
The Pakistani government’s capitulation in the face of violent Islamist protests sets a dangerous precedent, which is likely to make the situation of Christians accused of “blasphemy,” and those appealing against their convictions even more perilous.
From Pakistan Today here