ISLAMABAD: The recent decision by the chief justice to release a blasphemy accused on bail was discussed in the upper house of parliament on Friday, with some members lamenting the “politicising” of the issue.

Senators belonging to religious parties expressed concern over the verdict. Jamaat-i-Islami’s Mushtaq Ahmad Khan announced the filing of a review petition against the judgement, saying there were legal, factual and logical issues with it.

“[The] finality of Prophethood (peace be upon him) is a red line. We cannot leave any room for it to be tweaked by any means,” Mr Ahmad said, adding that the judgement wrongly interpreted that publication and distribution of misleading translation of the Holy Quran was not an offence when the crime was allegedly committed.

The accused, Mubarak Ahmad Sani, was booked under sections 7 and 9 of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011, for a crime he allegedly committed in 2019. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the said provisions were made part of the law in 2021, two years after the crime was allegedly committed.

JI’s Mushtaq says CJP ‘misinterpreted’ law; Irfan claims personal scores being settled in garb of criticism

Senator Ahmad said the offence under Section 9 of the Act carried a punishment of three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs20,000 under the original law, but it was later enhanced to a three-year minimum and seven-year maximum imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine.

He said the judgement also cited some verses of the Holy Quran which have “no relevance with the case”.

According to the JI senator, the judgement also referred to Articles 20 and 22 of the Constitution that guarantee freedom to profess religion. These rights were “subject to law and public order”. Senator Ahmad said religious minorities in Pakistan enjoy their rights, but Ahmadis were not a religious minority.

He added that Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims under Article 260 of the Constitution, and no judicial verdict or law can abrogate that provision.

Maulana Faiz Muhammad of JUI-F also spoke on the issue and voiced concerns over the judgement.

‘Don’t provoke emotions’

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said there was no doubt that the finality of Prophethood (peace be upon him) was part of faith, and there should be no move or decision to create doubts over it. He added that the matter was sensitive and that the court had already issued a clarification.

However, some people were venting “personal grudges” against Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa. He emphasised that the matter should not be used to provoke emotions and bring people to the streets.

The discussions over this issue should have ended after it was announced that a review petition would be filed in the apex court, Mr Siddiqui emphasised.

Shahadat Awan of PPP explained that the apex court had only given its decision over adding Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the case and the shortcomings of the investigation.

The court found that the due procedure was not adopted, but it didn’t touch the interpretation of the said law, Mr Awan added.

The Supreme Court only said that 295-C — which carries the death penalty for blasphemy — was not applicable in the case and that, as per the law, only an SP-level police officer could conduct an inquiry in cases of 295-C, Mr Awan said, noticing that in this case, a low-rank officer had carried out the investigation.

The chief justice gave references to Quranic verses and then also issued a clarification, the PPP leader said. “We should not create doubts about constitutional institutions and let them function. The matter can be referred to the House Standing Committee on Law and Justice to satisfy the members,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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