Pakistan's blasphemy laws – The Supreme Court, Asia Bibi and the laws' historical background

Mughal, Aftab Alexander
Date Written:  2018-11-26
Publisher:  Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23135

A description of a blasphemy case in Pakistan. Also includes a history of blasphemy laws going back to British India.



In June 2009, Asia Bibi, an agriculture worker, had an argument with her co-workers by using their glass for drinking water. They strongly reacted on her act by touching their glass as many Muslims consider Christians unclean. Days after, those women approached to a local cleric and accused her for blasphemy. During the village council, which was comprised of Muslim men, Asia Bibi, 47, was offered to convert to Islam and then the charges would be dropped. Nevertheless, she refused their offer; therefore, she was dragged to a local police station and charged under a blasphemy law, Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries on the mandatory death penalty. The law says, "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

Asia Bibi's case is a high-profile case, which once again highlighted the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Two prominent politicians were murdered for supporting Bibi. Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, a progressive Muslim, was murdered by Mumtaz Qadri, a hardliner Muslim, in 2011, after the high profile politician defended Bibi. Ironically, Qadri was Taseer's own bodyguard, but he was influenced by those voices who publically declared Taseer a blasphemer. In the wake of Taseer's assassination, Stephen Cohen, a famous author that wrote several books on Pakistan, said, "These are symptoms of a deeper problem in Pakistan. There is not going to be any good news from Pakistan for some time, if ever, because the fundamentals of the state are either failing or questionable.

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