All in the name of religion

Published: August 14, 2010

More and more Muslims are now being booked under the blasphemy law

Aristotle said, “The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual.” It’s a good thing that he did not live to see the way laws are made in Pakistan, set in place too frequently by individuals for selfish reasons.

Case in point: the blasphemy law

When General Ziaul Haq started tweaking the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in 1982, he introduced Section 295-B, which made desecrating the Holy Quran or making a derogatory remark about it punishable by life imprisonment. Unsatisfied with his contribution to the law, in 1984, he added Section 295-C. The clause added the death penalty to the list of prescribed punishments for “derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet(pbuh)… either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly.” In 1991, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) ruled that there could be no penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) other than death. If you add 298-A, B and C to the mix, we have what is fondly known as our blasphemy law.

The law has several flaws, the biggest perhaps that it does not stipulate the condition of mens rea which is one of the necessary elements of a crime. A close second is the fact that the concept of blasphemy is defined only with regard to Islam. No other religion practised in the state gets the same protection! Add to that the way the law has been applied. Amnesty International (AI), in one of its reports a few years ago, pointed out that most of the cases registered are “motivated not by the blasphemous actions of the accused, but by hostility towards members of minority communities, compounded by personal enmity, professional jealousy or economic rivalry.”


Two recent cases have highlighted the gravity of the situation. A Christian family was accused by their neighbour of blasphemy for using a plastic sheet with Quranic verses as a temporary roof for their toilet. The family went into hiding and though the neighbour later recanted, the family is still in hiding. Who can really blame them after what happened to the two Christian brothers who were accused of blasphemy in Faisalabad. They were shot dead as they were leaving the court.

The fact that the government cannot assure minority citizens even the security of life is shameful. The leaders often like to point out that there have been no executions. They fail, however, to say why they cannot prevent vigilante justice casualties.

More and more Muslims are now being booked under the blasphemy law, which lends credence to the observation that rivalry or enmity are often the driving forces behind allegations of blasphemy.

Attempts at changing the law have been in vain, both when Benazir Bhutto was pushed by AI in 1994 and when Pervez Musharraf tried to take on the mullah brigade. In 2009, our newest saviour, the Pakistan Supreme Court rejected an appeal challenging the FSC ruling. The then Deputy Attorney-General Tariq Mehmood, said that the petition was dismissed because the appellant did not pursue it.

Whatever the reasons, the law remains in place and continues to be misused. President Zardari seems to be the latest gladiator to take on the beast pointing out that it is being misused by extremist groups. Let’s see if cat’s nine lives end.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2010.

Aatekah Mir-Khan

Aatekah Mir-Khan

A senior sub-editor for the Lahore city pages of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Immy

    Agreed to the extent it is being missusedRecommend

  • Hamayoun Khan

    This law has mostly been miss-used, it brings out in clear focus the vulnerable situation of non-Muslims in a Pakistan. this reminds me of the race law of 20th century USA. I am not sure what purpose these laws serve. Do we want to terrorize people into either converting to Islam or leave this holy land of pure. Because respect is always earned voluntarily not with force. Our Holy Prophet PBUH always showed retrained in the face any kind of derogatory remarks and finally prove with his tolerance, good behavior and wisdom that his ways and teachings were right.We need to think over these laws and amend them.Recommend

  • Bilal

    A ‘blessed’ country of ‘blessed Muslims’ founded in the name of ‘Islam’ – now under full rage of Allah’s azab , lead into by the ignorance selfishness and cold bloodlessness of majorities lead by mullah. Now seems too late to analyse for mere purpose od analysis. Recommend


    it is being misused, because most of the MULLAHS have diversified ISLAM, they first see their personal interest and then came with a bang with their own fatwa, government has no control on these kind of elements. Pakistan is a Muslim country but everyone has a right to live in the country, the disappointing factor is that , a common man doesn’t know about the constitution of PAKISTAN, WHETHER he is Muslim or non- Muslim.
    what we need ,we need to know what ISLAM SAY ABOUT THE RIGHTS OF NON MUSLIMS. THE RULES WHICH ARE PURE ISLAMIC RULES, NOT created by any individual.Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson

    Do we really need this Law???? Is this law Islamic or man made choice??? Why kill any one due to any difference ??? What if European Union also passes a law or for that matter some Christian Countries also pass a law that who ever acts in any manner against Jesus Christ they shall be punished in the same manner as is done in Pakistan ??? Where will these types of laws lead humanity if passed in other countries having different faiths and beliefs??? i won’t go further, it is for us all to think.Recommend

  • Anoop

    That is why India does not agree with the concept of 2-nation theory. It essentially says two sets of people are different just because they practice different Religions.

    Pakistan has to reject it and adopt principles similar to the ones enshrined in the Indian constitution. Bangladesh is doing the same but look how fast its growing! It rejected Religion to define its state.Recommend

  • Immy

    @Aftab would you please qoute any example of conviction under this Law, as far as i know there is hardly any….All incidents happend are the acts of the inviduals and not by the courts etc. Problem is not with the law, problem is our extreme behaviors…when the indivduals try to act as courts themselves…these people must be taken to the task. Your other point “”What if European Union also passes a law or for that matter some Christian Countries also pass a law that who ever acts in any manner against Jesus Christ they shall be punished in the same manner as is done in Pakistan ???”” Dear let me tell you this is in the basics of Islam to beleive in all the prophets prior to the Last Prophet (PBUH). How come a muslim can even imagine to be disrepectfull to Jesus (A.S)??? As i mentioned in my previous comments i agree this is being misused …but it does not mean this Law is faulty…question is how many other laws we obey that we consider, are good for our social systme??? Recommend

  • Ghausia

    Jinnah’s Pakistan was supposed to be secular. They all said that was a lie, and too bad they chose to live in denial huh?Recommend

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    The Blasphemy is the Blasphemy Law!Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad

    agreed to the extent it is being misused…rest is ignorance!Recommend

  • Laconic

    This was extremely informative. Perfectly written. Refreshing. Thank you.Recommend