Musharraf intends to re-enter Pakistani politics, having founded a new party last year: the All Pakistan Muslim League. Obviously, if he is campaigning from that angle, he can’t remain silent on the blasphemy issue, and given the popularity of the laws that the aftermath of Salman Taseer’s assassination has made so clear, denouncing them would endanger not only his political career, but make him another target for assassination over the issue, joining Sherry Rehman and Shabhaz Bhatti.
So, Musharraf joins those clinging to the notion that the laws can be meaningfully reformed to protect against “abuse,” without merely adding a perfunctory layer of judicial review that ultimately only lends legitimacy to kangaroo court proceedings on blasphemy. The notion that it is necessary and proper for the government to apprehend, punish, and possibly kill those who are convicted of supposed insults to Islam or Muhammad remains intact.
Musharraf thinks that can just be tweaked to avoid “abuse.” Again, perhaps no other case has done more to rip the fig leaf of “moderation” off of our supposed “Friend and Ally,” Pakistan.
“Blasphemy laws must not be scrapped, says Musharraf,” by Ben Farmer for the Telegraph, January 17 (thanks to David):
Mr Musharraf said rather than amend the legislation punishing those convicted of insulting Islam, Pakistan needed to ensure the laws were not abused.
The laws have come under scrutiny after a Christian mother-of-five, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for defaming the Prophet Mohammed in her Punjab village.
It was a false charge. But in a civilized society, one could have said he scared children and wore plaids with stripes, and the villagers would have shrugged their shoulders and gone about their business. But no, somebody has to die.
Salman Taseer, governor of the state, was then killed by one of his own bodyguards for backing reform of the law, in an assassination exposing deep division between liberal and conservative Pakistan.
Mr Musharraf said blasphemy was deeply sensitive in the country and doing away with it was not possible. He did say however that Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard, must face trial.
“The killer of the governor, he is a culprit, he is a criminal, he must be tried and he must be punished,” he said during an interview in London.
While no one has ever been executed under the blasphemy laws and most are freed on appeal, as many as 10 accused are thought to have been murdered while on trial.
Mr Musharraf also said he would return to Pakistan before the next elections after last year founding his new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League.