Pakistani civil society groups call for justice against blasphemy and stoning

June 2, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistani civil society groupsLahore, May 30, 2014: This morning, activists and civil society groups staged a demonstration in Lahore outside the High Court to protest against the brutal stoning of 25-year-old Farzana Parveen, a woman who was three months pregnant, killed by her family outside the court in an “honour killing “, a common practice in the Punjab where hundreds of cases occur annually.

Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, summoned the attorney general of Punjab and demanded to see the investigation file in order to review the case.

Demonstrations were also held in Islamabad. In the capital, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – under pressure from the international community – described the crime as “unacceptable” and gave investigators 24 hours to arrest the culprits.

In Lahore, civil society groups called for the enforcement of laws to protect women, but so far, nothing concrete has occurred, as cases of violence – including rapes – continue to occur at alarming rate.

According to the latest statistics, sexual violence is on the rise, so much so that 13 cases of rape against minors have been reported in the last five months, the latest in Bahawalpur District, where a 65-year-old man was arrested for raping a girl of eight.

Commenting on Farzana Parveen’s brutal murder by her family, women’s rights activist Alia Saleem described the crime as a “barbaric act” that confirms “the increasing violence.”

The tragedy, she noted, is that “even if someone is arrested, he will just get a short sentence and be immediately released.”

Fr Arif John, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, has also bitter words for “the absolute lack of remorse” in the father who killed his daughter.

Also in Lahore, the Joint Committee for the Rights of People staged a protest yesterday against the growing intolerance in the country and demanded justice for the murder of Rashid Rehman.

The anti-blasphemy lawyer, a long-time target by Islamists, was killed by an armed extremist on the evening of 7 May. So far his killers have gone unpunished and the investigation shows no sign of any real breakthroughs.

At least, 3,000 people took part in the demonstration, with slogans and songs against confessional extremism. They demanded justice, and condemned the growing tendency of targeting those fighting against violence, fundamentalism and targeted killings committed in the name of the blasphemy law.

Ibn Abdur Rehman, secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, wants practical and pragmatic actions. When the state is unable to protect its citizens, the weak, the poor, the marginalised, “activists for human rights are the last bastion of the law,” he said.

Abid Hasan Manto, president of the Awami Workers’ Party, agrees. The state should take serious measures against terrorists, but “it cannot because it has a relationship [of some kind] with the terrorists.”

With more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous nation in the world and the second Muslim country after Indonesia.

Sunni Muslims represent almost 80 per cent; Shias are about 20 per cent; Hindus, 1.85 per cent; Christians, 1.6 per cent; and Sikhs, 0.04 per cent.

In many parts of the South Asian nation, an extreme and radical vision of religion based on the Sharia (Islamic law) is enforced.

In some places, women are not even deemed fully human, subject to the will of the men of the family and forced into marriage, even when they are underage.

– asianews

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