ISLAMABAD: Federal Shariat Court orders death as the only penalty for the blasphemer.
An international news agency reports critics say: the state of affairs for the Christians in Pakistan in conformity with an order that,” only the death sentence can be given to those convicted of insulting Islam’s prophet”, will further jeopardize Christians and add to the powers of the Islamic court that issued it.
The Pakistan Correspondent for this international news agency says: While Christians fear that government compliance with the Federal Shariat Court’s (FSC) recent order to remove life imprisonment as a punishment for insulting Holy Prophet could usher in a new era of persecution. Some critics on the other hand said: the greater concern is that it could broaden the powers of the controversial court.
“Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws calls for either death or life imprisonment for persons convicted of insulting Holy Prophet. The FSC has given the government a “couple of months” to implement, through parliament, the order to remove life imprisonment as a possible punishment. The FSC order comes less than three years after assassinations of two government officials silenced most criticism of the blasphemy laws, he said.
However, in the face of this ruling of the Federal Shariat Court it has been speculated that religious extremists are likely to be encouraged to attack those they believe are blaspheming- the FSC order may have little definite legal impact seeing as judges have been predisposed to issue death penalty sentences for such convictions anyway, according to a Pakistani lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani. “This is a guideline that the courts have already followed,” Hamdani said. “The problem is that it has symbolic significance. It opens the door for the Federal Shariat Court to exercise greater influence on the legal system. Will the FSC also rule that insanity is not a defence?”
Hamdani anticipated that the order would be taken up by the Supreme Court’s Shariat Appellate Bench, “which may take a more positive and liberal view,” he said.
Attorney Shoaib Salim of the Lahore High Court expressed hope that FSC’s order may be upturned. “The FSC is only empowered to examine and determine whether the laws of the country comply with sharia [Islamic law] or not,” Salim said. “The ultimate decision rests with the parliament.” He thinks it unlikely that the government of Pakistan would execute an order that would further spur religious detestation and persecution in the Pakistani society.
Notwithstanding sharp criticism and appeals of their abolition; the blasphemy laws have been characteristically abused to settle personal disputes. From the time when it was established in 1980- Federal Shariat Court has been predominantly subject of disapproval and arguments. According to the international news agency critics say: the FSC merely duplicates the functions of superior courts and contravenes the authority of parliament. They allege that the way its judges are appointed and retained is tainted, and that the court does not fully meet criterion for an independent judiciary.