Saturday, April 01, 2023
Feb 6

Written by: Diana West
Sunday, February 06, 2011 9:28 AM 

Photo: Sherry Rahman. Caption: She tried.


A very important and related story from Patrick Goodenough at reporting that Sherry Rahman, the brave lawmaker in Pakistan who introduced an amendment last November against the nation's blasphemy laws, has dropped her campaign.

As for our "pal" and major charity case, Prime Minister Gilani? Goodenough notes that Gilani "assured a gathering of Muslim leaders last month that the government has no plans to change the blasphemy laws. He subsequently disbanded a committee that had been established to determine how to amend the legislation."

So let's send over another load of US aid money. After all, Pakistan has only received $18 billion since 2001.

The adds further detail to the whole story:

Her effort won the support of PPP colleague Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, who called late last year [2] on President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death under the laws for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed.

Islamists then took to the streets [4] to demand that the government not intervene to save Asia Bibi from death row or tamper with the laws. A radical cleric offered a reward to anyone who killed Bibi, and both Taseer and Rehman received death threats.

The controversy deepened in early January when Taseer was assassinated by a member of his security team. Mumtaz Qadri, who shot Taseer repeatedly while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is greater), said he had acted because of the governor’s opposition to the blasphemy law.

After the assassination some 500 Muslim scholars issued a statement warning clerics not to participate in the slain governor’s funeral in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, or even to voice sympathy about his death.

The scholars also saluted Qadri, giving the assassin the honorary title “Lover of the Prophet, Commander of the Jihad Fighters.”

Lahore-based clergymen declined to take part in memorial services, and police said afterwards that three clerics from elsewhere who did so had received death threats. One went into hiding while the other two were provided with police security.

In the prevailing climate of fear, lawmakers in the federal parliament decided not to offer prayers for Taseer, foregoing a practice customary in Pakistan after a politician dies.

Meanwhile the feting of Qadri continued, his picture featuring prominently at demonstrations in favor of retaining the controversial laws. Hundreds of lawyers offered free representation to the confessed killer, who is in custody awaiting trail.

While the threats of radicals to kill those accused of insulting their religion and prophet came as little surprise in Pakistan, the U.S.-backed government’s capitulation was especially troubling for minority Christians and other critics. 

How about US continued support for said capitulating government? That's especially troubling, too.

Gilani’s Jan. 18 assurance to Muslim leaders that the government would not amend the blasphemy laws came shortly after a Christian woman and her daughter were attacked by a mob in Lahore who accused them of blasphemy. ...

Nice cause-and-effect situation.

Barnabas Fund, a charity working with Christians in Islamic countries, noted that the 500-plus clerics who issued the intimidatory warning after Taseer’s assassination represented the “supposedly moderate” Sunni Barelvi movement, Pakistan’s largest Muslim faction.

“While Barelvis are seen as moderates in the West because of their opposition to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, they are fanatical in their adherence to shari’a and in their defense of the honor of Muhammad,” said the charity’s international director, Patrick Sookhdeo. ...

Key point. Opposition to one faction of jihad or another has nothing to do with opposition to sharia -- which poses the existential, long-term threat. It appears to reflect more regional or even personal loyalties, much as a mafiosi prefers one mob to another.

Monitoring groups say around one thousand people have been charged under the laws since 1986. Although no death sentences have been carried out, hundreds of people are serving prison terms for violating the laws.

While Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadi sect of Islam are often targeted, most of those indicted have been Muslims.

A Muslim teenager arrested in Karachi last week faces trial after being accused of writing insulting comments about Mohammed in a school exam; two weeks ago, an imam (prayer leader) and his son were convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Punjab. They were brought to trial after removing a poster from outside their store which reportedly included verses from the Qur’an.

Beyond criminal proceedings, at least 30 people accused of blasphemy have been killed by mobs or individuals, some of them during court appearances or while in police custody, according to figures kept by a Pakistani Catholic organization.

Viewed as a crucial partner in the campaign against extremism in the region, Pakistan is among the world’s leading recipients of U.S. aid, having received some $18 billion since 2001, a sum that includes military reimbursements for its support of counterterrorism efforts.

The Obama administration requested $3.05 billion in fiscal year 2011 in military and economic assistance for Islamabad.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent statutory body that advises the executive and legislative branches, has urged the government since 2002 to designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for egregious violations of religious freedom.

Each year the State Department has overruled the recommendation.

But it's not political. The State hack, I mean, flack, I mean spokesman says so:

When the department released its most recent annual religious freedom report last November, its top human rights official, Michael Posner, said officials continued to raise concerns about the blasphemy laws directly with Pakistan’s government,

He denied that Pakistan’s status as an ally was a factor.

“We apply a universal standard to every country, friends and countries that we have difficult relationships with. That doesn’t mean we don’t have security interests or economic interests or other diplomatic interests. But we will raise these issues as we see them,” Posner said. “We’ll call them as we see them.”


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