Via the Zaid Hamid “exposition” site, I read Zaid Hamid’s letter to Dawn on the occasion of Yusuf Ali’s sentencing for blasphemy. Here it is:
There are a lot of allegedly moderates pakistanis on the chowk, who believe in human rights, who have woRn out their fingers posting about kashmir, the jinnah speach, the tolerant islam in pakistan, the 2% extremists. In supporting the killing of kashmir in the guise of human rights, selfdetermination etc. they are in tune with the mullahs, who prefer the word jihad.
In the following story, if the alleged moderates criticise the blasphemy laws they will be in conflict with the mullah. No, the moderates cannot afford to do that because of the fatwafobia. The human rights blah blah does not apply to pakistani nationals.
Convicted for blasphemy
A kind, benevolent and honourable Muslim Sufi of a small order has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a court in Lahore. I am an eyewitness to what happened in the court and how the prosecution murdered justice, human dignity, Islamic and contemporary law and all norms of humanity in the name of Islam. Mohammad Yusuf Ali is a staunch Muslim and a scholar of the Holy Quran. He has rendered meritorious services to Islam, Pakistan and humanity in his career. It was only a difference of interpretation which was exploited by extremist mullahs and some Urdu newspapers. Yusuf Ali had already spent two years in jail and now he has been convicted.
I was present in the courtroom to assist the defence lawyers. It was barred to the outside world. I am witness to what happened inside and how he has been convicted. The prosecution had based their case on four items: audio cassette of Juma Khutba, video cassettes of Juma Khutba, Yousuf Ali`s purported diary, and one Pir and his few followers, who claimed that he had claimed to be “Muhammad“ in front of them many years ago!
There was nothing objectionable in the cassettes, and even according to Qanoon-i-Shahadat, they were inadmissible, as the one who had made these was not known. They were highly edited, doctored and manipulated.
The diary was not of Yusuf Ali`s at all, and even the prosecution admitted that they were not sure of its origin. It had no name, no handwriting match, no owner. It was simply alleged on Yusuf Ali and was torn to shreds in its originality and credibility.
The Pir and his followers were again torn to shreds, as none of them was the complainant. They never reported the alleged blasphemy to the police or any other authority, which supposedly happened many years ago. Their credibility did not exist at all in terms of contradictions in cross examinations.
One of them was on bail on fraud charges. The complainant had all the info on hearsay. He had never met the accused in his life. All his info was through Urdu newspapers. He accused Yusuf Ali of adultery, but even in the FIR, the relevant section was not mentioned for lack of evidence, making the complainant liable to “Qazaf“. His testimony was not admissible at all.
Yusuf Ali had categorically, even before the registration of the FIR, made it clear through paid ads that he had not claimed to be a prophet and he was a staunch Muslim. Top religious scholars like Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi had declared him a true Muslim and asked the charges to be dropped. According to all legal and Shariat requirements he had proved himself to be a true Muslim. Still the prosecution insisted that he called himself a prophet. How can anyone be the judge of someone`s faith? The prosecution lawyers went so overboard that even the judge had to stop them from committing blasphemy in trying to prove Yusuf Ali wrong. Even though Yusuf Ali was on bail, he was arrested one day earlier against all rules, laws and norms. It is extraordinary how the bail given by a High Court was cancelled by the Sessions Court and the accused was arrested.
The whole trial was in camera and the media was not allowed in to hear Yusuf Ali`s explanations, his speeches and comments. The media was also barred from seeing the hopelessness of the prosecution witnesses and their lawyers.
It was on this quality of evidence that a great living sufi has been condemned to death on so many counts that we have lost count.
Now Yusuf Ali is in the line for gallows. Will we wait and let the evil win or raise our voices for our own survival?
Zaid Hamid makes a really indisputable point here which is why exactly there is such a shocking silence regarding blasphemy cases among the Pakistani media and Pakistanis who consider themselves to be liberal. Why is it that most people have never heard about the Yusuf Ali case until it was brought up again by the hardliners last year as a way to attack Zaid Hamid? Isn’t it a shame? Zaid Hamid’s account of the trial of Yousuf Ali also gives us some insight into the mockery of justice that blasphemy trials are.
As an example, how much mainstream media attention was given to the trial and conviction of Qamar David of Lahore and Imran Masih of Faisalabad who both received life sentences earlier this year? How many people are familiar with the details of Imran Masih’s case:
Imran Masih, for example, a Christian shopkeeper in Faisalabad, Pakistan, was given a life sentence on Jan. 11, according to sections 295 A and B of Pakistan’s legal code, which covers the crime of outraging religious feelings by desecrating the Koran. A neighboring shopkeeper had accused him of burning pages from the Koran. Masih says that he only burned old business records.
Will we ever know the irregularities that went on during in his trial?
And finally, why is it that Zaid Hamid – someone who has seen firsthand the damage that the introduction of religion into the legal system can do – can still support an Islamic state? Would Zaid Hamid step forward and give the same defence to someone like Imran Masih who had not “rendered meritorious services to Islam, Pakistan and humanity in his career”. Why is it that despite paying such a large price as a result of the blasphemy law, people like Zaid Hamid cannot accept the basic principle of secularism which is that in the interests of all members of society, we surrender the right to invoke the state’s authority in matters of religion. i.e. we give up the right to put the force of the state behind declaring someone a kafir and gain, in return, the security of not being persecuted by the state for our own beliefs.