Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, told the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Pakistan’s state-run news agency, on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 that “the democratic government in Pakistan was deeply conscious of the misuse of the blasphemy law in the country by extremist elements and vested interests” and added that he “would not permit misuse of the law under any pretext.”
Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti has recently made similar statements and some Christian media in the West such as ASSIST News Service have taken such statements as indications that Pakistan’s Christians can expect better protection from their government.
Frankly, I am far more sceptical for the following reasons:
1. Past Pakistani governments have made similar promises and nothing concrete ever resulted as they inevitably yielded to pressure from Islamic leaders.
2. Pakistan stands on the edge of being a failed state. The federal government’s control over parts of the country is non-existent and its ability to enforce law and order is tenuous at best throughout the nation. Pakistan can hardly be considered a country governed by the rule of law.
3. Blasphemy cases are presently still being pressed against Christians and the government is doing nothing about them. It is one thing to talk but why has there been no intervention in the cases where Christians are languishing in prison because of blasphemy accusations that have no basis in fact?
4. Government leaders like Minister Bhatti once spoke of getting rid of the blasphemy laws altogether, recognizing that no blasphemy law is a good law. Now, they are speaking of reviewing and revising them to prevent abuse. But this is simply an impossible task. This shift in emphasis speaks to a lack of will or a recognized lack of ability to make the necessary changes that will give Pakistan’s Christians the protection that they really need and deserve.