The issue of Pakistan's blasphemy laws has always been alive in the public discourse and an attraction for the media not only in Pakistan, but internationally, too. Now it will be reverberating even more around the corridors of power after the Federal Sharia Court of Pakistan ordered the Pakistani government to remove the option of life imprisonment for blasphemy. This means that crimes of blasphemy should be punished exclusively by the death sentence.
The court, which has the power to determine whether any law is unislamic, reasons that any punishment other than death for blasphemy is not lawful. This was the conclusion of a five-member bench headed by Justice Fida Hussain, which was formed to explore this question after a contempt of court petition was filed by lawyer Hashmat Habib on December 4. The bench based this conclusion on a previous decision by the court in 1990 determining that life imprisonment should be deleted on the grounds that any blasphemy act is not acceptable and the blasphemer is liable to be punished by death.
Habib's complaint was that the 1990 decision had not been implemented and so the court should now issue orders to rectify this, as well as initiate court proceedings against those who have hitherto failed to implement the decision. Coincidentally it was Ismail Qureshi, another lawyer and writer of the book, Blasphemy law (Urdu language), who submitted a petition to the court to remove the alternative punishment of life imprisonment. The court ruled in October 1990 that the alternative punishment should be deleted as it was repugnant to Islam and the government was directed to add a provision to the effect that any act of blasphemy upon other prophets should also be punishable with death. more >>
A British doctor in Pakistan was arrested and charged for allegedly "posing as a Muslim" after he was videotaped reading aloud from the Quran.
Masood Ahmad, a British doctor running a clinic in the eastern city of Lahore, was arrested last month after two men secretly videotaped him reading aloud verses from the Quran. The men had pretended to be sick and visited the clinic. After receiving their medication, they asked Ahmad to tell them about his religious beliefs as a member of the minority Ahmadi sect.
Members of the minority Ahmadi sect in Pakistan face widespread discrimination as they are considered under the country's constitution to be non-Muslims. This is because members of the Ahmadi sect consider the religion's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be a prophet, which contradicts the main teaching of Islam that Muhammad was the last prophet. more >>
The White House has condemned the reported execution of Jang Song Thaek, an uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The executed official, once considered the second most powerful man and a "China man in Pyongyang," was accused of treason and drug abuse among other charges.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that while the President Obama administration could not confirm Thaek's execution, there is no reason to doubt the North Korea state media's announcement that he was put to death Thursday.
"What it is indicative of, however, is the values of the regime, their low regard for human life, and what is probably the worst human rights record in the world, and that's saying something," Carney said, according to Voice of America. more >>
In yet another setback in their efforts to meet with a detained Christian pastor and church leaders, Chinese human rights lawyers have claimed that a crowd assaulted them on Friday.
Currently on a hunger strike protesting the government's ban on their efforts to visit church leaders detained for reportedly resisting authorities' efforts to seize church land, lawyer Liu Weiguo alleged that a brick was thrown at his head as an angry group confronted Liu and his colleagues.
Liu told the Associated Press that a group of men and women violently – the same crowd that is also believed to have assaulted a British television crew – confronted them. Prior to the incident with the lawyers, roughly 50 women charged two Sky News employees and attempted to take their camera. more >>
Lawyers in China are currently partaking in a hunger strike to protest being blocked by the government's Communist officials from visiting a Christian pastor who is currently being detained by authorities. The lawyers argue that the police are violating state law by preventing them from accessing their clients.
Fifteen lawyers started their hunger fast Thursday to protest the pastor's detainment and have said that they will not stop the strike until they are able to see their client. The lawyers traveled to Nanle county in Henan to visit detained pastor Zhang Shaojie, the leader of a government-approved Christian church who was recently detained along with other church leaders under vague charges of obstructing government business. Two of Zhang's lawyers, Xia Jun and Liu Weiguo, told the Associated Press that they believe their client was arrested for resisting the attempts of the state to seize his church property.
"We strongly believe that this is a clear case of persecution of a religious group," Liu said in a phone interview with AP. more >>
North Korean media reported Thursday that the "worse than a dog" uncle of Kim Jong Un has been executed, describing him as a traitor who tried to overthrow the oppressive government.
State media announced Thursday that the leader's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had previously been considered a very powerful figure in North Korean government, was executed after "attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state." The report announcing Jang's death called him a "traitor to the nation," "worse than a dog" and "despicable human scum."
Earlier this week, state media had announced that Jang had been removed from his position as No. 2 in the country after he allegedly participated in criminal acts including corruption, gambling, womanizing, and drug use while visiting a foreign country. He was also accused of abusing his power. Jang was married to Kim's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of previous leader Kim Jong Il. more >>