When the British government formulated laws for India after the War of Independence in 1857, the interests of three classes were taken care of while formulating the laws. One class was the British nationals who represented the crown in India. Second class was the Indian officers who were appointed after passing competitive exams and then posted on key positions to help British officials in administrative and revenue affairs. Third class of people was Indians loyal to the Crown, who had kept the local population at bay and helped the British officials in collecting revenue. They were given cultivating lands and honorary titles, such as Nawabzada, Sardar, Jageerdar and Lumberdar (often known as numberdar in rural areas of Pakistan).
The Crown of Britain took over Indian administration in 1857 but it took them 25 years to create the Criminal Procedure Code (a code of procedural laws) even though the substantive Indian penal code had been in place since 1860. The primary reason for this lag was to safeguard interests of British officials in India and those Indians serving the interests of British rule who were “a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”, as explained by Lord Thomas Babington Mecaulay. The code of criminal procedure was amended 16 years later in 1898 in order to further protect the interests of this ruling elite.
When Pakistan was created, the Criminal Procedural Code (CrPC) of 1898 was adopted. Since then, no serious effort has been made to amend the code to serve interests of people of Pakistan. That means all laws under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) have to be implemented by the code defined under the Criminal Procedural Code of 1898. Due to this, up till date, all laws have been misused and abused — to victimise the weak section of society by anyone who has either power or any other source to misuse them.
Among blasphemy laws, in Pakistan, although sections 295 and 295-A were incorporated by the British rulers dealing with sanctity of religion, place of worship and religious beliefs, other laws related to religious sentiments were included between 1980 to 1986. Since all the laws were integrated in the PPC, the procedure to implement these laws lies with CrPC, an outdated and manipulative code of laws.
This has been a part of the problem with critics of blasphemy laws.
The laws formulated between 1980 and 1986 were received with severe criticism within a decade of their enforcement. The first objection was that since their formulation there had been an increase in blasphemy cases instead of a decrease, while the second argument against them was the increase in false allegations of blasphemy. The answer to these objections simply lies in the fact that these laws are being implemented through a procedural code meant to protect a powerful section of the society. Both these issues were raised because a case registered with police need not be legitimate. Section 154 CrPC binds the Station House Officer to file a First Information Report without investigation. So when the procedural law allows a law to be abused, law is bound to be abused.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan Penal Code were perhaps made in haste. Most of them are one-liner laws. For example, in case of blasphemy of holy figures, even the word blasphemy is not defined. One wonders why the most sensitive matter of concern to Pakistani Muslims is so ill defined, and is left at the mercy of corrupt police and a code of procedure from the colonial era.
But this is really lamenting on the part of those critics who raised their voice against the blasphemy laws. They did not point fingers to the procedural code for these laws. This certainly casts doubts on the legitimacy of their demands.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan Penal Code were perhaps made in haste. Most of them are one-liner laws. For example, in case of blasphemy of holy figures, even the word blasphemy is not defined. One wonders, why the most sensitive matter of concern to Pakistani Muslims is so ill defined, and is left at the mercy of corrupt police and a code of procedure from the colonial era.
Due to the sheer negligence of successive governments, these laws are not only misused and criticized but have become another reason to target the religion in general and Islam in particular at international forums.
The blasphemy laws should not be a part of the Pakistan Penal Code. They should be formulated as a special law where the code of procedure, punishments and mode of trial is clearly outlined. There should be a designated magistrate of at least first class or an additional sessions judge for investigation of this matter and the trial purpose as well. There should also be a punishment for the person making false complaint, which is equal to the punishment ascribed by blasphemy. Making wrong allegations of blasphemy is no less of a crime than blasphemy itself.
Bringing the blasphemy laws under special laws is the only way to maintain the sanctity of religious sentiments and harmony among different sections of the society.