Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Blasphemy Law of Pakistan and its Implications

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Raya Tripathi

Article Title

The Blasphemy Law of Pakistan and its Implications


Global Views 360

Publication Date

March 11, 2021


Representative Image, Pakistani Flag

Representative Image, Pakistani Flag | Source: Hamid Roshaan via Unsplash

In Pakistan, Blasphemy results in a capital punishment in majority of cases. It is perhaps considered a crime worse than terrorism. A crucial case in point is the fact that the Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court gave around 15 years jail term to two close aides of Hafiz Saeed—chief of the terrorist organization—Lashkar-e-Taiba—and mastermind behind 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks—where at least 150 innocent people lost their lives.

Similarly, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi—Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operation commander and another important figure involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack—was sentenced to 15 years in jail period. Not to mention—this happened amidst the international pressure on Pakistan for letting terrorists to function and roam freely within their country.

While something as violent as terrorism is dealt with lenient punishments, there are draconian laws for blasphemy in the country. Moreover, one can be accused of committing blasphemy—doesn’t matter if they did it or not—and might not even face a fair trial.

This article discusses what are the blasphemy laws and what are their implications while looking at some specific cases.

What are Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws?

What's called Blasphemy law today has its origins in the colonial era. The “offences relating to religion” were introduced by British in 1860, and were later expanded in 1927. These were sections 295 and 295-A from the Indian Penal Code. The laws were made to avoid religious disturbances, insult religious beliefs, or intentionally destroy or desecrate a place or an object of worship. Under the 295 and 295-A, the convicted were to be given a jail term from one year to ten years—with or without a fine.

Pakistan ended up inheriting these laws after the partition of India in 1947.

The laws were amended in 1982 and another clause was added which prescribed life imprisonment for desecration of the Quran intentionally. Another clause was added in 1986 to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad through imprisonment for life or death. These clauses, were added under General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime, in an order to make the laws more “pro-Islam.”

Since then, this law has often been used to persecute people from minority communities—such as the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Christians, and Hindus—they have been accused of blasphemy without much evidence.

Infamous cases and implications of blasphemy in Pakistan

One of the famous cases was of Asia Bibi, which grabbed international attention as well. Asia Noreen—known as Asia Bibi—was a Pakistani Christan and a farm laborer in Punjab province. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, was a brick laborer. A dispute with her Muslim neighbours turned into an accusation of blasphemy—leading to her arrest and imprisoned. There were a lot of protests in Pakistan, demanding death penalty for Asia Bibi.

Two politicians—Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti—who supported and tried to help Asia Bibi, were murdered. Taseer was shot by his own bodyguard named Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri in broad daylight. Qadri was tried and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2016. Mumtaz Qadri became a hero for millions and hardliners praised him as a martyr. He is regarded as a saint and a mausoleum has been built over his grave in his village near Islamabad, where even devotees come to offer prayers.

Asia Bibi was first sentenced to death by a trial court in 2010, however was later acquitted by the Supreme Court in a historic judgement of 2018. In 2019, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that she was free to leave Pakistan and was given asylum in Canada where she moved along with her family.

Although after a long struggle, Asia Bibi still got justice and was able to start a new life—unfortunately many others didn’t. Many met with Mob Justice.

In 2017, a journalism student at a Pakistani University was lynched to death by fellow students in Mardan—in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The student—Mashal Khan—was a Shia Muslim and was falsely accused of blasphemy. The mob was enraged by a rumour according to which he had promoted the Ahmadi faith on Facebook. In a similar instance, a man named Tahrir Ahmad Naseem was killed by vigilantes in July last year for blasphemy. He was a former Ahmadi, and was in Peshawar Central Jail since 2018 for claiming to be a prophet. He was shot dead inside the courtroom during trial in the Peshawar Judicial Complex.

Furthermore, in a case similar to that of Asia Bibi, a Christian couple—Shahzad and Shama Maseeh—were accused of blasphemy as well. They were then beaten and burned alive by a mob in 2014. Shama was four months pregnant. The mob, which also included a local cleric, believed that the couple had burned some pages of the Quran along with some rubbish, although the couple’s family still denies this. Five people including the cleric were sentenced to death, while the eight others were given two years imprisonment.

Last year, former Foreign and Defense Minister Khawaja Asif as well was accused of blasphemy for merely stating that “all religions are equal.”

Why is this happening?

According to data by Pakistan’s Centre for Social Justice, there have been 1549 known cases of serious blasphemy in the years 1987-2017, out of which 720 were Muslims, 516 Ahmadis, 238 Christians, 31 Hindus, and the rest 44 are unknown. 75 out of the total cases ended in the person being murdered before their trial.

There are 13 countries in the world which punish blasphemy by death penalty and Pakistan happens to be one of them. But unlike countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where they are executed judicially—as mentioned earlier—accused in Pakistan are often killed in mob violence or assassination. While Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to top in terms of the highest number of executions, most of them for sacrilege or crimes against Islam, Pakistan’s total ‘judiciary’ killings stand at zero.

The problem of this mob mentality in Pakistan, especially when it comes to religion, is actually deeply rooted in its constitution. The country’s aspiration to become a democracy as well as an Islamic state is in itself contradictory. The people want the right to freedom and expression and the hanging of a person committing blasphemy at the same time. The constitution denies criticism of Islam while claiming to allow freedom of speech and religion. The elevation of one religion over others in itself is principally undemocratic.

Another interesting point is the fact that the people supporting these ideas haven’t been aware of how things can backfire. Muhammad Din Taseer—father of Salman Taseer—supported Ilam Din, who murdered a Hindu publisher over blasphemy in 1929. An ancestor’s support for radicalism ended up in his own offspring being assassinated in the name of blasphemy.

Mental illness and blasphemy

In Pakistan, often some mentally ill people are punished to death by mobs for unknowingly ‘committing’ blasphemy. In 2012, a man widely reported by the media and police as ‘mentally unstable’ was arrested for blasphemy in Bahawalpur district, Punjab province. A mob gathered outside the police station, dragged him outside, and burned him to death. There have also been cases of misuse where such vulnerable individuals were subjected to sexual abuse and later accused of blasphemy by the abusers to cover up their crimes.

Such abuses towards mentally unsound people would have been a criminal case and the abusers would have been punished—unless they use the blasphemy law—as the mentally unstable victim cannot defend themselves.

Role of Anti-Terrorism courts

Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism courts were set up to ensure quick justice in cases such as terrorism, sectarian violence, targeted political killings, hijacking, kidnapping, extortion and even arms trafficking. Earlier gang rape was also included in it—but removed later.

They are also key to controlling mob attacks on blasphemy accused as such trials are held here.

Yet, these courts have been facing several problems due to lack of basic resources and understaffing. The posts of judges often remain vacant for months, and the state prosecutors complain of poor working conditions—with no offices, stationery, clerical staff or legal resources. These problems may have risen due to the fact that there are not sufficient funds allotted for the ATC infrastructure, one of the major challenges in Pakistan’s legal system. Due to this, these courts are not able to fulfill their primary objective—to provide ‘quick’ justice.

Moreover, these courts lack independence and are vulnerable to political influence—the judges are held accountable to the executive. Sometimes the witnesses often refuse to testify against the accused, as they fear assassination by terrorist groups the accused belongs to. The judges, state prosecutors and others also have personal security concerns which also lead to delays in trials.

Also, these courts deny terrorism suspects the right to equality before the law. They are not even tried in a public place with full defense and are not presumed innocent. Peshawar High Court advocate Ghulam Nabi even challenged the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 under Article 199 of the constitution in December 2009, saying that it violated basic human rights.

The blasphemy laws of Pakistan need to be repealed in today's Global civic society. People are fighting for equality everywhere around the globe. And now it is up to Pakistan to choose—whether to become a democracy or continue with a pseudo-democratic authoritarian regime which is based on extremist interpretation of religion.

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July 19, 2021 11:59 AM

3D Printing: The direction to go for the Indian Defense and Aerospace Industries

3D printing is the next big game-changer on the technological front, almost a revolution if you will. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects by layering two-dimensional cross sections on top of one another. The two-dimensional cross sections are computer-designed and rendered, which makes it all the more advanced. From Aerospace to Defense and Medical to Automotive, products manufactured via 3D printing are spreading their reach in the markets quite swiftly. This article will take a look at how 3D printing is beneficial and how the technology can transform the Indian and Defense and Aerospace sectors once utilized to its full potential.

Additive manufacturing has the power to unlock a wide range of opportunities. It uses a 3D printer to create a layer-by-layer “addition” of material which is digitally constructed. Different types of materials which are currently being used for the same are metals, ceramics, special plastics, synthetic resins, and etc. 3D printing not only reduces the cost of production of various components but also gives the power to manufacture locally with design flexibility. The technology significantly speeds the process of designing; this is mainly because there is no requirement of tools. Traditional manufacturing usually takes months to either acquire necessary tools and further produce parts and components or import components from various places. However, once 3D printers are acquired, which they might be costly in themselves, they would ensure a smoother production process. Hence, due to the combination of localized manufacturing and no tools, tailor-made designs can be produced to match the necessities of various industries.
Figure 2: A typical 3D printer. Source: Bre Pettis via Flickr

India is gradually growing with respect to its utilization of 3D printing technology. In 2014, the 3D printers market was at an early stage with just 200-500 combined workforce of engineers, designers and sales representatives. Currently, start-ups are springing up in places like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, etc and they are producing essential parts for sectors like the Indian Navy, Air Force, ISRO and the HAL.  India’s 3D printing market is projected to reach $79 million by the end of 2021, while the global market is at around $15.8 billion, which suggests that India has a lot of catching up to do.

Applications in the Aerospace and Defense Industry

The Aerospace and Defense Industries are keen to pursue additive manufacturing, mainly because of benefits such as weight reduction, cost cutting and to meet their highly specific requirements. The additive process uses less material to manufacture components and also ensures minimal waste of material. Overall reduced weightage means that less fuel would be used in aircrafts and hence result in better environmental compatibility. Let’s examine a few instances in India where 3D printing startups have assisted and provided the defense and aerospace sectors with unique solutions.

Recently, in 2020, the Centre-run defense company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Wipro 3D, the metal additive manufacturing branch of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering. The initiative would primarily focus on the design, development, testing, manufacturing, and repairing of aerospace components using metal additive technology. HAL is using 3D printing to manufacture engine components, although it also provides support to helicopter and rotary wing products. HAL also provides products to the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. Speaking about this collaboration, Shekhar Shrivastava, CEO of the Bangalore division of HAL, said, “This initiative between HAL and Wipro 3D will create a unique synergy of capabilities that can accelerate the adoption of metal additive manufacturing in aerospace in India. Qualification of parts for aerospace is challenging as it would require prove out and extensive testing followed by certification by regulatory authorities which may also include flight testing."

Down south, Karnataka, which produces more than 65 percent of India’s aerospace-related components and exports, has taken a number of initiatives to promote additive manufacturing by setting up 3D printing clusters and sponsoring 3D printing startups. For example, through its flagship programme ‘Start Up Karnataka’, the State has given grants to ‘Deltasys E-Forming’, a Belgaum based start-up, to develop hybrid composite 3D printers. These initiatives are quite appropriate since two-thirds of India’s aircraft and helicopter manufacturing for the defense takes place in Karnataka, and 3D printing would revolutionize these processes quite rapidly.

On the other coast, Chennai-based 3D printing startup, Fabheads Automation, was established in 2015 by an ISRO engineer turned entrepreneur Dhinesh Kanagaraj. The deep tech startup designs and develops high-end carbon fibre helicopter blades for the Indian Air Force. Traditionally, carbon fibre parts are fabricated by laborious manual processes with a lot of fabrication time and money spent. Dhinesh also observed a lot of material wastage when he worked on carbon fibres at ISRO.  Based on this, Fabheads has designed an automated 3D printer series to eliminate material waste and also improve efficiency of production of carbon fibre. Sectors like the DRDO are currently approaching the company given these innovative methods of production.

3D Printing Saves the Day for the Indian Navy

Further, the Indian Navy has partnered with ‘think3D’, a Hyderabad-based 3D printing start-up, to produce spare components via additive manufacturing for both on and off-shore set-ups. The Indian Navy uses a lot of machinery on its ships which are imported from other countries and are quite old.  Whenever a component gets damaged, it is hard to replace it either because there is no availability of the part or because there is significant delay before a part is received. This often proved to be costly for the Navy since the machines would have to be kept idle before a spare part was replaced along with the fact that procurement of the parts was no less expensive.

This is where think3D had stepped in and supplied 3D printed parts to the Indian Navy, which were successfully tested and incorporated into its machinery. An example of such a 3D printed part, which proved to be of crucial help, is that of a centrifugal pump impeller- a key component for a ship’s operation.
Figure 3: An original impeller (left) vs. a 3D printed impeller (right). Image source: think3D

The impeller is a rotating component and it is very important for a ship as it transfers energy from the motor to a fluid that needs to be pumped by accelerating the fluid outwards from the centre of rotation.  On ships, this component is used to import seawater into various parts of the ship for regular use of the crew. These impellers are required to rotate at high speeds for long durations and need to be very carefully designed. 3D printing was the best solution to replace these parts, given the speed of production and lower expenses.

Given all the benefits of 3D printing, it is high time for the Indian market to expand its 3D printing industry and utilize it to its full potential. There are many other instances like the one of the impeller in the Aerospace and Defense industries which can easily be solved using 3D printing.

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