Gojra: Flames of Zia’s Theocracy


Living in denial substitutes deliberate ignorance for a thoughtful planning towards change.For over six decades we have confused, manipulated and twisted the theocracy. Denied principles that could have saved us from reaching the brink.
In February 1948 in a Broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America on Pakistan , Jinnah said the following:

The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fair-play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims –Hindus, Christians, and Parsis –but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

The address leaves no doubts regarding the ideology that led to Pakistan. It caters all factions of the society  with their roles, rights and  standing.  Six decades after the address the inherited traditions, practicality, and sense of justice  have been replaced by fanatical theories. The theocratic state now seems to serve a different mission. An agenda that was seeped in to the foundation of our society for the sole purpose of power.  Zia’s Islamizition continues to serve its purpose.  Over the time only faces have changed, while the fanatic ideology remains unscathed.

Image Courtesy: Dawn News
Image Courtesy: Reuters- Shows scene of violence from Gojra

TOBA TEK SINGH: Seven people were burnt alive and 18 others injured in Gojra on Saturday after fresh violence erupted in the town over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran three days ago.
More than 50 houses were set on fire and a place of worship belonging to a minority community was damaged by an angry mob.
So an alleged  discretion of the Quran can be used to justify burning 7 people alive?. Humanity says No, while the blasphemy law says yes.

The Blasphemy Law:

The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code were amended, through ordinances in 1980, 1982 and 1986 to declare anything implying disrespect to Muhammad, Ahle Bait (family of the prophet),Sahaba (companions of the prophet) and Sha’ar-i-Islam (Islamic symbols), a cognizable offence, punishable with imprisonment or fine, or with both.

PPC Description Penalty
298A Use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of holy personages 3 years imprisonment, or with fine, or with both
298B Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places, by Ahmadis 3 years imprisonment and fine
298C Aka Ordinance XX: An Ahmadi, calling himself a Muslim, or preaching or propagating his faith, or outraging the religious feelings of Muslims, or posing himself as a Muslim 3 years imprisonment and fine
295 Injuring or defiling places of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class Up to 2 years imprisonment or with fine, or with both
295A Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs Up to 10 years imprisonment, or with fine, or with both
295B Defiling, etc., of Quran Imprisonment for life
295C Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of Muhammad Death and fine

How these laws can be used to justify violence?

Dr. Sajjad Farooq’s case in the year 1995 is  ghastly example of religious frenzy, he was beaten to death by people outside a police station in Gujranwala. After being declared an apostate and accused of having desecrated the Qur’an. Dr. Farooq,was later reported  to be a staunch Muslim, was dragged out from the police station where he was lodged and stoned to death by frenzied mobs. All this on the basis of a rumor, apparently circulated  out of personal enmity, he was proclaimed to be a Christian through the loud-speakers of the mosques in his locality.

At Present:

The outburst of sectarian and inter faith violence following the law are condemnable.Yet mere condemnation will not save lives.We need to eliminate these elements.The society cant bear co-existence until we break the shackles of religious extremism.Religion can not be made a compulsion.Neither can respect be driven through fear.While we fight the Taliban, one of the many gifts of Zia, the fanatic mindset requires immediate action.The rights of minorities can no longer be sabotaged.Repression of basic humanitarian rights will only lead to a chaotic backlash.General Zia’s  ‘Islamization’ is not only controversial but has imparted irreparable damage to the social fabric. Zia had no qualms in exploiting the name of Islam to justify his lust for power.

Image Courtesy: Jazba Blog
Image Courtesy: Jazba Blog- Shows people protesting against the Gojra killings.

Its been 31 years , since the law was introduced, yet the nation shows no scruples in abiding by the most futile system. A system sought to instill beguiler views and flourishing a conservative society.This involves the suspension of the sensibility of love and reason underlying the religious tradition signified in our culture.

Whether we allow the flames of Gojra to burn down the fanatic ideologies remains a pending decision. So let the victims of Gojra open our eyes to the flaws blatantly engraved in our minds and steer us to a much needed change.

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16 thoughts on “Gojra: Flames of Zia’s Theocracy”

  1. Religion is not a compulsion but in an Islamic state
    shariah law is. Jazziya is an example of it. A tax that non Muslims
    had to pay. Call it whatever you want. The existance of the law Is
    innevitable and should never be challenged. The execution, proper
    channeling and ammending it to more correct sharai standards is
    however immensely needed.

  2. Hi!
    What Mr. Jinnah said or did not say does not matter in the least. He was an Ismaili by birth, most of the people of Pakistan are not Ismailis. He was an Englishman by culture, most of the Pakistani population has not adopted the English culture. So it’s a grave injustice to attempt to enforce Mr. Jinnah’s alien beliefs upon the people of Pakistan. People accepted Mr. Jinnah as their leader, in order for him to represent their interests and concerns, they did not accept Mr. Jinnah as a leader so that Mr. Jinnah could try to force his own beliefs on the people. If Mr. Jinnah ever attempted to do so, it was an act of treachery on his part.

  3. A good article but I would tend to strongly disagree with you here, sana! Probably the last commentator has put my thoughts already on the forum but I would extend it further.
    Our disagreement starts at the point where you write:

    “…So an alleged discretion of the Quran can be used to justify burning 7 people alive?. Humanity says No, while the blasphemy law says yes….”

    NO LAW in this world allows executing a penalty unless someone is proved guilty. So nowhere in Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) it is written that if it is ALLEGED you’re justified to do anything. Henceforth Section 295C of PPC, commonly known as Blasphemy Law DOES NOT GIVE THE JUSTIFICATION to allegedly do anything. The law is clean as humanity if it is alleged but the law further says that convict shall be penalized if s/he is guilty, but the so called secular humanity may even not allow that, and that is against nature. If someone does wrong, it is his action and we should not make the mockery of the law. It is the person who should be snubbed neither the law.

    To give an example to readers of this blog I would paint a scenario where a thief steals a good whose value is let’s say less than quarter of a Dinar (currency at the time of Prophet (PBUH) along with Dirham) and angry people chop his hand off. Now it would be wrong if we start ridiculing the words of Allah saying that Chopping off hand is inhuman (and am sorry to say that currently lots of people take it this way). Note that as narrated by Hazrat Ayesha in Sahih Bukhari in Hadith number 780, 781, 782 in Chapter 81, Limits and Punishments set by Allah, Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet said, “The hand should be cut off for stealing something that is worth a quarter of a Dinar or more.” In our example angry mob did wrong to chop off the hand since thief made a theft of less than a quarter but does this mean LAW was wrong since it gave opportunity to miscreants to spur violence in society? NO…

    It means our society as a whole needs improvement where we need to inculcate peace, love and tolerance and how would we do that? Yes, Education and awareness! Probably you need to criticize the government or take up on Education instead of taking on this LAW, and see how much progress we have made in education since 70s or may be 60s.

    Proceeding further ahead in your article, you write:

    …The outburst of sectarian and inter faith violence following the LAW are condemnable. Yet mere condemnation will not save lives. We need to eliminate THESE elements. The society can’t bear co-existence until we break the shackles of RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM…

    I have capitalized (CAPS) the words that I disagree. Violence is condemnable but LAW is not since its clean. The uneducated mindset and the society in itself is condemnable. If you take this law as religious extremism then I do not agree with this as I will give reference to ahadith that blasphemy is punishable to death. But I agree with you that violence on the name of religion is not allowed. All those who kill on the name of Islam are out of faith thus should not be labeled as Muslims hence the word Islamic Extremist or Religious Extremist (religious referring to Islam) does not hold true.

    Referring your sentence: The rights of minorities can no longer be sabotaged; especially in regards to this LAW, I would like to clear that this law is for every Pakistani irrespective of faith either Muslim or Hindu or Parsi or whatever. If our society indulges into violence based on any rumors, it is the duty of our law enforcement institutions like police, judiciary to take care of that.

    In the end you say that: …It’s been 31 years, since the law was introduced, yet the nation shows NO SCRUPLES in abiding by the MOST FUTILE SYSTEM. A system sought to instill BEGUILER VIEWS and flourishing a CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY…

    Probably you’re not happy with the fact that blasphemy law enacts death sentence. You are taking the whole system of Zia (Blasphemy Law) as futile flourishing a conservative society. Probably those sahabas who killed blasphemous people did inhuman acts and were they conservative, not listening to others’ opinion? Again, the law in itself is sound but our society is pathetic. It’s the failure of our institutions, our society, our thinkers, our influencers and our elites who have gone miles away from Islam. It is always a societal fact that less privileged follow the elites. If our elites are corrupt, not have minimum Eeman then how can you expect that our society at large will be great and peace loving?

    Now at the end I will also give references to Ahadith referring death sentence to Blasphemy. And please don’t take Islam as cruel. There is also death sentence in Bible and Torah for Blasphemy. Jews crucified Jesus (PBUH) on Blasphemy, reference King James Bible; Matt 26:65-67.

    Blasphemy is punishable by death:
    Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (PBUH) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (PBUH) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood. Hadith 4349, Chapter 38, Kitab ul Hudood, Sunnan Abu Dawud.

    Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas: A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (PBUH) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (PBUH) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (PBUH) was informed about it. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the Prophet (PBUH) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet (PBUH) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.

    Looking at the above two ahadith, there is no doubt that blaspheming, disparaging or abusing Prophet (PBUH) is sentenced to death. Therefore the Section 295C is according to Islamic Shariah. But please note that Islam does not allow killing anyone based on accusations. If someone is doing that it is un-Islamic. If there are such elements in our society, we probably need decades of hard work to change our culture and mindset. We need to inculcate love, peace and harmony in our society and that is only possible if we our elites take the lead and interest in spreading the religion, which means peace!

    Last but not the least if you wanted to criticize the violent societal elements then am sorry to say that your article was not explicit to that and it looked as if you’re thrashing the LAW altogether. Since it is not explicit on what you want to criticize or condemn, many of the readers take a wrong image of the LAW itself (that I have proved is not wrong). I have observed there is lots of Blasphemy LAW-bashing going on at Twitter as well that has a wider audience who can take another opportunity to defame Islam and its sharia. Since this law is based out of sharia, we all need to accept it. If you agree with my opinion, probably you can re-align the twitter campaign not maligning the law rather the government who has failed to act promptly.

    Thanks for bearing such a long comment and no hard feelings!

  4. “it is due to the illiterate people and weak institituions”…

    Agreed but the Blasphemy Law is like a sword given to a blind person and then left at a crowded place o kill. There is no check on its misuse. Musharraf said he would make procedural changes but just a couple of small protest processions in Lahore loosened his belt. Who dares to challenge these hard-liners and their leaders? PMLN – No they are natural allies. PPP – No they started it long ago.

  5. As a muslim this incident disgusts me. But this is not due to the blasphemy law, it is due to the illiterate people and weak institituions. If we had strong institution………people responsible for law and order such as our police force, army, justice system, etc should have taken care of the situation. In our country people make use of certain laws to avenge their personal vandetta. Blasphemy laws should not be touched, otherwise it would create mischief in the country. Even hindus in India dare not disrecpect Islam, how can we as a muslim country tolerate that. It’s a pity that our people who are consumed by secularism are lead to believe Islam as an evil and outdated religion. Though anyone who makes miss use of blasphamy law should be dealt severely.

    Its those illiterate lunatics, who are to be blamed for this scenario. Not only that, its ourselves who are to be blamed. How can we deserve peace if we ourselves elect eunuchs and murderers to represent us in the parliament and most evil of them our very own President.

  6. Sadly those who preach do not think of serving Allah, they are serving their own vested interests. Think of it, most of them dont even have a college degree, yet they can make people do stuff which totally negates the basic teachings of Islam. People are illiterate hence they dont have the ability to think logically. I think Islam is a very logical religion. Islam teaches muslims to peacefully live with other religions/communities. What happened in Gojra is the opposite. The sad aspect is that the state failed to established its writ. The responsible officials should have resigned right away because they failed to do their jobs. But Pakistan is an unfortunate country where you can get away with anything at times even with a special ordinance.

  7. Great article – well-written and researched as always. I completely agree with you and upon reading the Blasphemy Laws, find it painful that sectarianism has seeped into the Constitution despite the fact that the Bhutto family were Shia’s and even Jinnah came from a Shia family. Good idea to quote from his speech – we’ve forgotten the man and his ideals and all we remember/celebrate now is his birthday. Gojra is not an isolated incident, it is one of many and I fear more will happen if the govt. keeps focusing on laws like the Cyber Crime Bill and not laws like these.
    After all, democracy is supposed to be the best revenge isn’t it?

  8. I read the blog, I was very pleased to read that there are other very sensible pakistanis who see through this very barberic and midevil law of Ordinance XX. The use of this law against the Ahmadies was just the begining, and now it has spread to other religions, and soon it will spread to other muslims.

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