February Issue 2011

By | People | Q & A | Published 13 years ago

“Equal punishment should be given to the accuser who lodges a false FIR”
– Mansoor Raza

Mansoor Raza is a freelance researcher with various action researches to his credit, including a detailed study on the Blasphemy Law.

How and why is it so easy to file cases under Section 295 and its sub-sections?

It is easy because in a mono-religious country the law has an emotional value attached to it, so it becomes socially appealing and justifiable, though it contradicts the core values of the English judicial system i.e. impartiality and secular tone.

Ironically, it is also used to save the accused from the wrath of demonising crowds and mullah pressure. Once the FIR is lodged, the accused is taken into police custody hence s/he is saved for a while. Nevertheless, there are cases in which the accused have been extra-judicially killed by fellow jail inmates or police officers.

What kind of preliminary evidence is required to register an FIR?

Only written complaints and eyewitnesses (at least two) are deemed necessary to lodge an FIR.

What is the trial process, what kind of evidence is required for a conviction etc?

On record evidence as stated in the FIR, and any other evidence that can be brought to the notice of the court.

What procedural changes in the current law can prevent the rampant abuse? If counter-abuse laws are to be introduced, how must they be framed and what will they need to address in order to be effective?

Though I am the biggest proponent of total repeal, for a variety of reasons, nevertheless if one talks about procedural amendments then in my humble opinion equal punishment should be given to the [person] who, at the very first stage, lodges a false FIR against the accused. Since in all cases it is the accused versus the state, hence it is the responsibility of the state that as soon as a case is discharged on whatever grounds, the liar should be brought to book immediately.

What are your views on the private member’s bill that Sherry Rehman had presented before a parliamentary committee?

The crux of Sherry’s bill is that abuse should be stopped. Keeping in mind Pakistan’s peculiar political developments I don’t think that’s going to work now, if at all it was considered. Remember the case of the Objectives’ Resolution which, when proposed, was only a preamble to the main text of the constitution. However, Zia-ul-Haq’s jingoism made the resolution an active part of the constitution. So, if not repealed, the laws will always hang on minorities like a sword. Any mullah or dictator can make use of these to suppress dissenting voices. That’s exactly what is happening in today’s Pakistan. Please do remember, it’s not a religious issue, it’s a socio-political construct. The dying feudal class wants to retain its supremacy on the newly emerging middle class, and the mullahs are serving their traditional masters in their conventional style.

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.