Blasphemy verdict: Opposition cries foul

March 30, 2014 - 6:37:31 am

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)  yesterday joined hands in the National Assembly to show concern over the award of a death sentence to a Christian man over blasphemy.

The two parties were of the opinion that it amounts to persecution of the minority community. A district court in Lahore sentenced Sawan Masih to death for committing blasphemy in March last year that was followed by riots in which around 100 houses of the Christian community were burnt by an angry mob.

PPP’s Shazia Marri and PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari wanted to raise this issue when the question-hour started, but the chair did not allow them to speak until other items on the agenda were disposed of.

Finally at the end of the session, both got the chance to speak out against the death sentence. When Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi reminded them that this issue is sub jaundice, they contended that law did not bar them from commenting on a case after a verdict has been issued because after that it becomes public property.

“Those who brunt the Joseph Colony are roaming freely. But a member of the Christian community has been sentenced. 

This is harassment of the minority community,” Dr Shireen Mazari stated.

She deplored that the minority community is being targeted constantly, and sought an explanation from the government as to what it did with the rioters who set fire to the houses of the Christian community members.

Taking the floor, Shazia Marri said that they can speak on the issue after the verdict, which she termed as disturbing.

“We are really disturbed with this verdict,” Shazia Marri stated. Referring to the constitution of the country, she noted that it envisages equality for all citizens of the country, but in real terms nothing of this kind is practiced.

She called the verdict bad, especially in a month when the Christian community is preparing to celebrate the Easter festival. 

“We condemn it and want the government to do the same,” Shazia said. 

On the treasury side, no member of the cabinet came to respond to the opposition’s concerns, but Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, focused on the rehabilitation measures by the provincial government in Joseph Colony.

Hamza noted that when the tragic incident took place, only a few days were left in the expiry of the tenure of the last government, but Shahbaz Sharif had stated in explicit terms that such incidents could not be tolerated.

“The Punjab chief minister not only rebuilt the houses of the victims but also gave those families financial assistance whose children’s dowry was also brunt to ashes,” he stated.