The games Maulana plays

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-Fazl), has apparently shifted his stance on the misuse of the blasphemy laws. He said, “If a law is being misused against minorities we are ready to discuss this (matter).” It took the deaths of two political leaders, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, to make the maulana realise that the blasphemy laws are indeed being misused and have also led to such mindless mayhem. Maulana Fazl also condemned the murder of Mr Bhatti and said, “Such acts (of violence now) amount to taking the law and constitution in one’s own hands.”

It seems that Maulana sahib is now reconsidering his previous hardline position on the blasphemy laws and extrajudicial killings in this regard. The religious right and the religio-political parties supported the blasphemy laws to such an extent that it had become difficult to even debate on this issue. The extreme lunatic fringe resorted to killing those who were only talking about amendments in the law to stop it from being misused. The climate is so heated that Ms Sherry Rehman is now under grave threat. The cases of blasphemy have increased over the years, especially since the death penalty was made mandatory under General Ziaul Haq’s ruthless regime. The law has now become a travesty of justice. It is time that a rational solution be sought to this issue. Political will and consensus is needed to amend the blasphemy laws in order to protect it from being misused.

On another note, Maulana Fazl hosted a dinner for the opposition parties at his abode in Islamabad. PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, MQM’s Farooq Sattar, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Professor Khursheed Ahmed and some others were present in the meeting. It is of course the democratic right of the opposition parties to form an alliance and if this alliance is made in parliament to hold the government accountable, there is nothing wrong with it. But if this alliance is being formed to pursue any extra-parliamentary agenda, like the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) of yore, then there is cause for worry. The opposition parties should stick within the democratic parameters and not try to destabilise the government. Pakistan needs democracy to counter extremism and to achieve long-term stability.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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