By Farman Nawaz
The decision about the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri , who killed Sulman Taseer, will determine the future battle lines between the liberals and fundamentalists in Pakistan.
The liberals, despite the fact that they are against the capital punishment, want to bring Mumtaz Qadri to the gallows and the fundamentalists, despite the fact that late Sulman Taseer was not found guilty of blasphemy and Mumtaz Qadri took the law in his hands too, do not want to see Qadri hanged.
Liberals of the view that this decision will set the guide lines for the future of blasphemy law in Pakistan. If the decision about the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri is not revised then liberals of Pakistan can dare to speak about any amendment in the Blasphemy law otherwise just like Objective Resolution, this law will take the position of a preamble for religious legislation in Pakistan.
One aspect that still not given consideration is the fact that death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri is not the defeat of Blasphemy Law in Pakistan but rather it will even strengthen the Blasphemy law. It will give an impression that people are not supposed to take the law in their hands. Pardoning the people who take law in their hands will weaken the Blasphemy law and the control of the state.
Religious fundamentalist might think that death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri might lead to an environment where religion will be shun from the legislative bodies of Pakistan but the fact is that they are twisting the arm of the state to let the extremists give free hand to kill any one. The purpose of the Blasphemy law is to provide protection to the people who commit the act of blasphemy. This law is a tool which could satisfy the public that the state will punish those who will commit blasphemy. This law does not allow the fundamentalists to save a killer who murdered a man which was not yet found guilty of blasphemy.
Fundamentalists have chosen a wrong stand to protect the religious legislation in Pakistan. Blasphemy law must provide an environment where people feel secure that their religious feelings will not be hurt. If this law will start providing safety to the killers then in this age of internet and social media people will express their concerns about the implications of Blasphemy Law.
The aim of the Blasphemy law is to create an environment where religious feelings of the people are not targeted by any person or organization. It did quite well in making the fearful of the consequences of blasphemous activities but in this new age of social media and internet where people are creating fake accounts and post blasphemous materials, how can this law fulfill the purpose for which it was enacted. YouTube is still ban in Pakistan but people are still opening it by using alternate mechanism.
How many websites we can block in Pakistan? Can we find the people who will post these blasphemous materials? After finding these people can we stop them from this heinous act? This law is only applicable in Pakistan; can we apply this law on a person who is living in Nepal? Blasphemy law is only applicable on the people whose identity is known. Unknown people on social media, where billions of people are contacted with each other and where the message is visible to billions of people, can never be brought to justice. What Mumtaz Qadri did with Sulman Taseer, is it possible for someone to do it after seeing some blasphemous post on Facebook?
The tangle of liberals and fundamentalists in Pakistan is concentrated on the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri but the need is that both these sections of society have to sit with each other. They will have to find a platform for their debate. The fundamentalists will have to find out why liberals are scared of Islamic law in Pakistan and the liberals will have to accept the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim majority state where people love their religious basics.
Making people frightened by strict rules will not work in this age of social media and protecting the killers will also not give strength to Islamic legislation in Pakistan. Similarly in Muslim majority state the government cannot provide a platform to liberals where they are free to discuss whatever they like.