CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Blasphemy law should cut both ways

KARACHI (UCAN): The Joint Christian Action Committee in Pakistan is petitioning the government to charge Zafar Ullah Khan, a leader in the ruling party, with blasphemy if he refuses to apologise for drawing an offensive parallel between the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and Jesus Christ.
 
The prime minister of the majority Muslim nation and his family are under investigation for owning offshore properties was revealed through the Panama Papers Leaks—documents held by a Panama-based law firm identifying links between political and business leaders and offshore companies and accounts.
 
Nawaz denies the charges, but officials appointed by the Supreme Court have already filed a 254-page report implicating him and his family.
 
In a press conference on July 10, Zafar, a senior counsel to the prime minister, said investigators probing the offshore assets of the ruling Nawaz family have done to the prime minister what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus Christ.
 
Christians took strong exception to Zafar comparing Nawaz, who is facing an investigation for graft, with Jesus Christ.
 
“This statement has hurt the sentiments of millions of Christians living in Pakistan,” Akran Waqar Gill, the president of the Joint Christian Action Committee, commented.
 
“Had any member of the minority community drawn any parallel involving the Prophet Mohammed, he or she would have been lynched or ended up in jail by now,” Gill said.
 
“We, along with Muslim Masihi Ittehad (Muslim-Christian Unity group) and the All Pakistan Muslim League, have filed a police complaint against Zafar under the blasphemy laws,” he explained.
 
However, a rights advocate, Basharat Khokhr, said that despite making the application to the police, the Christian community stands united in its stance against the blasphemy laws.
 
“In principle, we want the blasphemy laws abolished, but we have reservations over their inconsistent application. There is one rule for the majority Muslim community and another for the religious minorities,” he said.
 
“We will take to the streets if our application against Zafar is not taken seriously and he is not arrested for his offensive remarks,” he said.
 
“Our main purpose is to expose the hypocrisy of the police in particular and society in general regarding the discriminatory application of the blasphemy laws. No time is wasted by the police if any member of the minority community is even falsely accused of blasphemy,” he said.
 
However, Zafar said in a statement that a small group of people has tried to misuse his reference to the historical background of the betrayal of Jesus for their own political purposes.
 
“As a Muslim, I cannot even differentiate one prophet from the other, as all are holy and divine,” he said.
 
Khan said his reference to Jesus was to indicate his betrayal and to declare the truthfulness and the greatness of Jesus, and trying to find another meaning is highly unfortunate and disappointing.
 
In Pakistan, blasphemy against Islam, the prophet, Mohammed, or the Qur’an remains a sensitive topic and many Christians have had to pay with their lives over mere false allegations.
 
Pakistan Today reported that at a July 10 press conference, Zafar also compared former test cricketer, Imran Khan, with Judas Iscariot.

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