Aftab Bahadur (RIP) at 15 when he was convicted of a double murder – he always professed his innocence.
By Simon Wilson
Pakistani lawmakers met to consider legislation to reform the nation's corrupt blasphemy laws during at a 6pm seminar at Lahore Iqbal Library 12th September
2015. During the meeting Islamic clerics vented frustration towards the government of Pakistan for even considering such an option, and are
calling for the release of the murderer of the former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who advocated for blasphemy reform in 2011.
The seminar, which was attended by 10 Muslim scholars and a former Pakistani judge, gathered at a "seminar for protection of the prophet's dignity" and
expressed their concern over the proposed legislation that is attempting to add the word "intention" to the nation's blasphemy law.
Speaking at the seminar was former Pakistani justice Mian Nazir Akhtar, who represents Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who assassinated Punjab Governor Salman
Taseer for his stance against Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Akhtar opposed any proposed change to existing legislation and asserted that those who insult
the Muslim prophet Muhammad deserve to be killed and "sent to hell."
Pakistani prison officials confirmed that a Catholic death row inmate, who was tortured into confessing to three murders over 23 years ago when he was
just 15 years old, was executed on 22nd June 2015, a story that caused international discontent and has been labelled as perverse (Guardian article). Aftab Bahadur was convicted of the 1992 killings of Sabiha Bari and her two sons and was hanged at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, but not before
he had one last chance to proclaim his innocence. "Aftab Bahadur was hanged at District Jail Lahore" an unnamed prison official told Reuters "before
the hanging, he was crying and saying he was innocent."
In 2008 young Christian worker Ejaz Taj was accused of blasphemy charges 295C when a local mullana provoked mosque worshippers to find and kill Ejaz before
he could escape elsewhere in the country. Ejaz's father Mr Taj Masih complained about the behaviour of the mullana to local police and tried to file an
FIR harassment. The police have continually refused to register an FIR against the mullana or his followers. Mr Taj Masih has alleged that on a few
occasions police and religious clerics beat him for complaining. He said:
"My son is innocent and never committed any crime. He would not even dare to say insulting words against a prophet of Islam, we know what trouble this can bring. I have been beaten and humiliated by police and the mullana who filed the FIR case against my son – there is no end to my pain."
The mullana also asked a local mufti to issue a fatwa against the son Ejaz Taj. Mr Taj Masih, added:
"I simply want an investigation into the false allegation and the cruel actions of the mullana but no lawyer or authority wants to file a case against a religious Islamic leader or his followers – instead they have beaten me and threatened to kill both me and my family."
Pakistan's blasphemy law is often used by Muslims, who consist of over 96 percent of the population, to attack Christians and other religious minorities
whom they have a personal vendetta with, or of whom they are jealous, coveting their possessions or even their wives and daughters.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said:
"The notorious, extremely biased blasphemy laws of Pakistan have proven to be a tool for persecution and avarice. Consecutive governments of Pakistan have failed to bring reform, despite several broken promises, after caving into the ideological whim of extremists. These failures highlight the impossible situation for Pak-Christians and other minorities, who bravely survive a desperate lifestyle and retain their faith in a nation that refuses to change laws, under much less duress. The huge expectation of reform after the first consecutive democratically elected parliament in Pakistan, has proven to be false, as the situation faced by minorities has worsened. It is time western nations recognised the true plight of Pakistani Christians and altered their misguided risk profile for one of the world's most persecuted minorities."
Pak-Christians will have a better existence in Pakistan and for the government to fulfill its duty to protect minorities.
The blasphemy law will be revised despite Muslim pressure and desire to keep it unchanged.
The blasphemy law will no longer be a useful tool for settling scores, real or imagined, or as a way of hurting those who unwittingly arouse jealousy in their Muslim neighbours.
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