Blasphemy and blood money

I heard yesterday that some religious parties had the audacity to offer blood money (Diyya) to the Taseer family on behalf of the murderer and terrorist Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Governor Salman Taseer for criticizing the blasphemy law.

I say audacity but they really were not being audacious. They were well within the law of the land to offer the money and well within their rights to do so. This is because the Shariah compliant Qisas and Diyat ordinance was passed in 1990. This ordinance was replaced in 1997, when Qisas and Diyat provisions became a law through an Act of Parliament.

This law basically made murder a private matter and not a crime against society or the State. As such, the victim's heirs can forgive the murderer/ criminal in exchange for money, thereby putting the onus of punishing the murderer on the victims’ family.

Please excuse me while I take a moment to slow clap this magnificent idea.

Let's be very clear here, Mumtaz Qadri murdered a man. He should be punished for it because he took it upon himself to do so, to save the honour of his religion. As such this is not a private offense but a crime against society (even if the state doesn't consider it a crime against itself). If the Taseer family had been less honourable, taken the money and forgiven this menace to society, he (and others like him) would be given the green light to commit such a heinous crime again.

This law, as many other Shariah compliant laws, is rubbish and should be abolished along with the blasphemy law. Many a times, people from poor and not well connected families of victims are coerced into forgiving criminals and take blood money in exchange. Thus the guilty are either given minimal punishment or allowed to roam free.

Honour killing is a shameful practice in this country and often families who have had their girls killed in the name of honour, have got away scot free because they forgave themselves under this law.

What a lovely way to dispense justice! I say again, this is a law that should be done away with because murder is not a private offense and forgiving the murderer then sets him or her free to repeat their action, or at the very least gives others the idea of doing so.

The state of Pakistan must really think about whether it wants to join the rest of the world in the current century and promulgate and implement laws that provide security and safety to its citizens. This is the responsibility of the state and it must not be allowed to shirk it in the name of religion.  Pakistan must do away with instituting 7th century laws that have no basis in today's society. It is not hard to do so.

This and many other Shariah laws have no place in the world today. And any demand to impose them over society, instead of secular laws, is not an idea that we should accept. And therefore, we must step up and be vocal about their abrogation. This is because most of these laws exponentially favour some people and are not very considerate to women, minorities and the poor. And let me be very clear, it is not that they are not implemented properly. No, just their existence is a slap in the face of society at large. Just for this they must be replaced.

Saima Baig is a Karachi-based environmental economist, climate change consultant and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt