WDF strongly condemns the false blasphemy allegations against Dr. Arfana Mallah
The misuse of blasphemy law against progressives must be stopped immediately – WDF
The Women Democratic Front strongly condemns blasphemy allegations and threat of FIR against University of Sindh, Jamshoro professor Dr. Arfana Mallah. Along with being an academic, Dr. Mallah is also a prominent women’s rights campaigner, a member of Women Action Forum, and known for loudly and boldly speaking truth to power. Her “crime”, it seems, was to express her concern and apprehension at the arrest of Professor Sajid Soomro of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, a day earlier, also on charges of blasphemy and sedition.
In a blatant expression of the weaponization of the blasphemy law, a vicious campaign was immediately started against Dr. Mallah by Rashid Mahmood Soomro of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, asking for Dr. Mallah to be charged with blasphemy. These allegations put Dr. Mallah and her family at immediate risk of violence, and are meant to deter other voices from speaking in support of her and in favor of freedom of thought and expression. In short, what we are seeing is the use of blasphemy law to clamp down on academic freedom and to silence all kinds of criticism and dissent, something we have sadly witnessed too many times in this country.
As we write this, Junaid Hafeez, a promising young academic at Bahauddin Zakaria University has been languishing in jail on trumped up blasphemy charges for 7 years now. His lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was shot dead for daring to represent him. Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, known for holding progressive views, was lynched to death by his fellow students and local political leaders, also on false allegations of blasphemy. The list of victims goes on, underpinned by the apathy of our state and its abdication of the role to protect the lives of its citizens, and is unfortunately too long to note in this space. And it will continue to grow unless the government takes strict penal action against those who level false charges and put lives at risk, and reviews laws and legal processes which enable this persecution in the name of religion.
The Women Democratic Front demands that the government take immediate legal action against Rashid Mahmood Soomro for using the blasphemy law as a weapon against Dr. Mallah and putting her life in danger; release Professor Sajid Soomro, Junaid Hafeez and others who are in jail on false charges; and last but not least, repeal all such laws which are used to silence the voice of dissent.
We call upon all progressives and feminists to come together and stand in solidarity with Arfana mallah & Sajid Soomro. We also believe blasphemy has long been used to silence the artists, poets, religious minorities as well as any other progressive voices. WDF pledges to fight against the misuse of the blasphemy law and for a society which is based on principles of egalitarianism, societal justice and equality.
WDF is a socialist-feminist political organisation, aiming to bring together struggles of women against all forms of patriarchy, capitalism, feudalism, national oppression, state oppression, war and terrorism, and religious extremism. We stand for women’s emancipation and social justice, people’s democracy, peace, secularism, and non-aligned foreign policy. We are not an NGO. We are a resistance movement running with membership fee, and we do not accept any financial support from any government/non-government agency within or outside Pakistan.