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Why blasphemy remains unpardonable in Pakistan

Updated Mar 27, 2016 09:46pm


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Mobs rampaged through the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year after the allegations against Sawan Masih emerged. —AFP
Mobs rampaged through the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year after the allegations against Sawan Masih emerged. —AFP

This is the third article in a five-part series on the untold story of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Readers are recommended to read part 1 and 2 first to minimise confusion and clarify the context of this article.

Part 1: The untold story of Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Part 2: The fatwas that can change Pakistan's blasphemy narrative

This is a story of a group of religious and religio-political actors who completely changed their position on the blasphemy law for what they perceived to be the greater good of the society.

It was not that long ago that the Pakistani ulema were openly stating a position on the blasphemy law that said blasphemy does not mandate a fixed penalty, and is a pardonable offense.

And then, something changed.

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination acted as a catalyst for a rapid shift from what they originally held to be true (not only expounded by others but by their own selves) to a much more radical and populist stance.

These figures of religious authority had uncovered a simple code: regardless of political or religious orientation, the nation will rally together in defence of the name of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

Moreover, this law and the narrative surrounding it serve as a tool for the persecution of minorities. This claim is not hyperbole – it is grounded in fact.

The story is best told through visuals.

The following infographic compares the extra judicial (vigilante) killings related to blasphemy and accusations of blasphemy before and after the passing of the blasphemy law (295-C).

It also shows the exponential increase in blasphemy cases over the past two decades.

It is clear that either people have become a lot more blasphemous, or there is an inherent capacity within the law to be used as a weapon of persecution.

—Data from 1990-2014. —Data from 1990-2014.

—Data from 1990-2014. —Data from 1990-2014.

—Data from 1990-2014. —Data from 1990-2014.

A more in-depth look at the minorities targeted under the law reveal what may well be specifically a method of institutionalised persecution against the Ahmadis.

—Data from 1990-2014. —Data from 1990-2014.

The power of the law means that it becomes important for religo-political actors to attach their narrative to the law, because that is where political mileage lies.

The clearest example of this was when Taseer was assassinated for requesting a presidential pardon for a blasphemy accused, and members of the public hailed his killer as a hero and approved of the murder.

Those who had previously acknowledged the option of pardon and waiver of the death penalty, recognising the shift in the locus of power, quickly changed their position in response to the apparent public sentiment.

The manner in which they have erased all mention of the possibility of pardon from their narrative and public declarations — endorsing even the polar opposite of what they have known to be true — makes for a fascinating case study of binary before and afters. It demonstrates all too clearly the hand of politics at work in the functioning of the 'apolitical' religious scholarship. A few cases in point:

Jamia Binoria

Jamia Binoria in Karachi is a major madrassah and its head, Mufti Naeem, made regular media appearances defending the law and criticising Salman Taseer for requesting presidential pardon for Asia Bibi. However, we know that before the “event”, Jamia Binoria itself adopted a much more lenient stance.

Both fatwas have been taken from the official Jamia Binoria website in 2010 and 2014 respectively. Both fatwas have been taken from the official Jamia Binoria website in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman

Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman has been one of the most vocal supporters of the blasphemy law and has repeatedly categorised blasphemy as an unpardonable offense, with a fixed death penalty.

He was instrumental in the exile of theologian Javed Ahmad Ghamidi from the country after their debate on blasphemy went public.

*The conversation cited in the “Before” is from the official transcript of a Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) meeting in 2003-2004 downloadable here.

If Sharia allows pardon in blasphemy cases, who can deny it?

It appears that Mufti Muneeb had a sudden case of amnesia during his debate with Ghamidi as he brushes away the idea in the strongest of terms.

The debate between Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman and Javed Ahmed Ghamidi

Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman has also gone on record in conferences declaring that Ghamidi’s insistence on pardon is a danger to the religious authority of the ulema.

Looking at the same Mufti Muneeb in a meeting of the Council Islamic Ideology before the issue was politicised, it is clear that he knew of the provision of pardon in Hanafi jurisprudence.

Note that at the time, while acknowledging the existence of pardon, he was personally reluctant to make the knowledge public for its 'potential harm'.

Now, of course, by hiding the truth, he has decided for the people what they should and should not know.

In contrast to the demand-driven about turns since Taseer's assassination, we can look to simpler times when the issue of pardon was raised in a relative political vacuum by looking to the stance of no less a personage than the Grand Mufti of Pakistan.

Grand Mufti of Pakistan – Mufti Rafi Usmani

Our Grand Mufti Rafi Usmani is perhaps the most authoritative faqih (Islamic Jurist) in Pakistan.

In 2003, he actually gave a step-by-step procedure for obtaining pardon for blasphemy (in the Council of Islamic Ideology Annual Report, 2003-04, pg 135).

This was in response to a query by the state on the acceptability of pardon for those charged under 295-C.

While these particular steps are for a Muslim (as per the case in question), he does acknowledge the provision of pardon as the Hanafi position for non-Muslims in the same article as well.

The very fact that he gave the criteria for pardon means that he is giving a legal and procedural way forward for people like Dr Younus Shaikh and Asia Bibi.

While the politicised religious forces were busy condoning and celebrating the assassination of Taseer for requesting pardon for Asia Bibi, buried in the archives of the CII annual reports, our own Grand Mufti had provided procedural recommendation for pardon years ago.

The Bench of the Ulema in the Federal Shariat Court Judgment 1991

As noted in the previous article, Ismaeel Qureshi – the architect of the law – filed a petition in the Federal Shariat Court to declare blasphemy a hudd (divinely ordained and fixed) offense without provision for pardon. The court looked towards a bench of seven ulema on the question of pardon.

Four out of 7 ulema categorically stated that blasphemy was a pardonable offense (i.e. the death penalty is not fixed).

The court ignored the majority vote of the bench and went ahead to formulate a legal interpretation that espoused the opposite, making it a hudd offense.

One cannot help but question the judgment, especially when we consider the following:

The story of Nawaz Sharif and his father

After the dubious judgment by the FSC in 1991, a petition was filed challenging the decision.

As discussed in my first article, my research partner and I interviewed Ismaeel Qureshi.

Ismaeel Qureshi made a phone call to Muhammad Sharif, the father of Nawaz Sharif, and told him that someone was trying to challenge the FSC judgment. ‘You are an aashiq-i-rasool and you cannot let this happen during your son’s government,’ said Qureshi.

In response, Muhammad Sharif called his son, the Prime Minister of the country, and instructed him to get the petition withdrawn.

Nawaz Sharif himself recounts in the acknowledgement section of Qureshi’s book how he interfered in a judicial matter.

Nawaz Sharif in the acknowledgement section of Ismaeel Qureshi’s book Namoos-i-Rasool aur Qanoon-i-Tauheen-i-Risalat. Nawaz Sharif in the acknowledgement section of Ismaeel Qureshi’s book Namoos-i-Rasool aur Qanoon-i-Tauheen-i-Risalat.

In what is a clear violation of the separation of institutions in democracy, Nawaz made a phone call to the courts and got the petition thrown out.

Why? Because he said so.

The nonchalance with which Ismaeel Qureshi narrated this story of political interference speaks volumes about how commonplace it is for political agendas to creep into and usurp religious narratives.

Why are the religious forces hiding the truth on pardon?

My first article documented the original authentic Hanafi position on the penalty for blasphemy i.e. it is not a hudd offense, there is no death penalty for repentant Muslim offenders, no death penalty for non-Muslims and there is a provision of pardon in all cases.

Why then, do the religious forces deny or hide this?

My research partner and I went on a mission to find the answer to this question.

We met Fareed Paracha of Jamaat-i-Islami, as well as the president of Tanzeem-i-Islami, Hafiz Akif Saeed (son of Dr Israr Ahmed).

After presenting our evidence of the factual inaccuracies from which the current narrative draws its strength, we asked for their opinion. We got the same answer – that it is a matter of maslihat (public good). It is not in the best interest of the public that information like this be openly disseminated.

According to them, revealing this will help the mission of the 'secular agenda' in the country.

On a visit to the Jamia Madania, the chief mufti agreed with all of our research but refused to make it official by giving us a fatwa on the issue of pardon.

In fact, both our primary and secondary research shows that the instrument of maslihat is used consistently to misrepresent the classical Hanafi Jurists on the matter.

The idea being promoted is that Islam is in a fragile state and under attack, both externally from the West, and internally through growing secular voices. Thus, reverting to the authentic Hanafi position, which resonates with the 'secular' demand for clemency and lenience in blasphemy, is tantamount to collusion with this 'repugnant' force.

The mission then becomes to claim and retain ownership of this religio-political power play, even if it is at the expense of intellectual integrity and human lives.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series documenting relatively apolitical groups of the ulema that are working to dispel myths surrounding the blasphemy narrative.


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Author Image

Arafat Mazhar is the founder of Engage, an institution for research and reform of religious laws in Pakistan.

He can be reached on Facebook or at and tweets @arafatmazhar.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (90) Closed

Jalbani Baloch Feb 19, 2015 04:27pm

Difficult question but with simple answer that the Government authority and control is weak, otherwise, such cases have also been reported from Saudi Arabia, which is a heartland of Islam, but the authority is so powerful that no one can even think of taking up law into their own hands.

Jason Feb 19, 2015 05:03pm

Lack of sense of humor?

valiya Feb 19, 2015 05:21pm

Sheer intolerance, nothing else.

From India Feb 19, 2015 05:23pm

@Jalbani Baloch So finally you have some one to compare with: Saudi Arabia - the epitome of civilized society, the symbol of humanity and the nation which believes in complete freedom of religion or gender equality etc etc.

Mohammad Ali Khan Feb 19, 2015 05:35pm

Honest answer.It is the jahalat of the believers. As long as the population will remain under spell of these clerics,things will only go down hill.

Ahmad Feb 19, 2015 05:39pm

great analysis. i dont know how we will get rid of this

Asghar Feb 19, 2015 05:45pm

Time for People to stand up to this injustice this law is causing. Government should provide the platform the consensus amongst Ulema to take appropriate changes/ repealment of this law.

Sarmad Feb 19, 2015 05:46pm

Letting people die in the name of 'Maslihat'?

By saying there's One God, you're not suddenly giving "Jews" mileage.....cos they say the same And by saying Blasphemy is pardonable doesn't mean you're giving "Seculars" mileage...cos they say the same.

Islam is the truth and if the truth overlaps with someone else's views (example, Jews say One God) does not negate the truth....

and does not mean you do not spread the truth.

Irongloves Feb 19, 2015 05:52pm

Congratulations to Arafat Mazhar for his brave, determined and illuminating research into a dark and disastrous (if you are on the receiving end) subject of the blasphemy "law" in Pakistan, and to Dawn for printing the series. The fact that PM Sharif has played such a key role in ensuring the solidification of the current drastic, indeed barbaric, interpretation that is at odds with the "authentic Hanafi position" further illustrates the ulterior motives of political Islam not wanting to cede any ground to what it/they perceive as "secular" thought. With so many people (including the Sharifs) running scared and turning turtle on their earlier positions, I fear for the future of Pakistan.

Fi Feb 19, 2015 06:09pm

So it is all politics. Self serving politics

Cyrus Ho Feb 19, 2015 06:09pm

Quite an extensive article but a simple question to answer. Low self esteem.

FerozQ Feb 19, 2015 06:15pm

This is interesting in a sense that the Arabs (whose sanctity the Pakistanis hold so dear!) do not really have such laws in their own lands, but leave it to the insecure apes to enact such ridiculous laws). It is even more interesting that while half of the country is living below poverty line and a few unintelligent uneducated ignorant are more concerned about the sanctity of ONE dead person over the well-being of the living. Oh well.

ashok kumar lal Feb 19, 2015 06:21pm

blasphemy should only be handled by military courts to get proper justice.

Pakistani Feb 19, 2015 06:27pm

From what i can tell, and I am no Alim, the mullahs are the biggest cultprits.

They have a lethal combination - lack of knowledge about the higher principles of Islam, ingorance, cruelty and a feeling that they are above the law.

They need to be dealt with firmly.

Khalid Feb 19, 2015 06:27pm

Reasons are:

Majority of illiterate population Mullahs have a free hand in whatever the want No respect for the law Laws are created to please only a section of society (Not for the benefit of Pakistan) We have ignored the direction Jinnah wanted us to go in

Fida Feb 19, 2015 06:29pm

Well done Arafat for giving an in depth research with facts and figures. It all makes sense and restores our belief that Islam is a religion of peace and common sense. How I wish ,only if we could retrieve it from it's hijackers...

Chaman Feb 19, 2015 06:32pm

Amazing that in this day and age such things are even debated. Mullahs with Power or guns in their hands will drown any society. Islam does not forbid thinking and questioning. Mullahs do and can have differing opinions and interpretations of the religious laws. They can and do question each other's opinions but if an individual does so it is crime. The power of making laws and interpreting them has to be passed on to legislature and qualified judges who can better apply the laws with the betterment of societies in mind. Otherwise the judgements and punishments will be more cruel than the crimes themselves

MohiniKutir Feb 19, 2015 06:54pm

Mr. Arafat Mazhar, has made an excellent analysis about the logic around the Sharia law, as to relates to "Why blasphemy remains unpardonable in Pakistan". Regrettably he has not raised the more fundamental question, which is about the role of sharia law in modern societies. Does Pakistan aspire to be a pluralistic tolerant society or sectarian society?

Its a shame that scholars, judges, politicians, minorities are afraid of the mob mentality.

Saraz Feb 19, 2015 06:57pm

This is solid and hard work by you Arafat. You are trying to save the truth and are a sane voice among the roar of beasts. Carry on.

kumar swami Feb 19, 2015 07:08pm

@Ahmad only with dissolution of the present structure of the country and building a modern one.

sadam Gurmani Feb 19, 2015 07:36pm

well done writer.This stuff is really an important piece of writing.with this effort you may have changed the minds of many.....keep it up.

Pakistani Feb 19, 2015 08:21pm

We need to repeal ALL Zia era dictatorship laws and also strike down that terribly discriminatory law against the Ahmedis.

Religion should be ones private matter. And all these mullahs should be banned from TV for 10 years.

Learn to be Pakistanis or leave.

TARIQ Feb 19, 2015 08:30pm

See how close we are the following statement: First they came for the Christians, i did not say anything because i was not a Christian, then they came for the hindus again I kept quiet because I was not a hindu, then they came for the Ahmadi's and i kept quiet because I was not an Ahmadi. Then they came for me and then nobody was left to speak for me. Martin Niemöller ...then they came for the Jews, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew... When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984) was a Protestant pastor and social activist.

rjack Feb 19, 2015 08:48pm

These mullahs are thugs and misinterpreting Islam for personal gains.

just_someone Feb 19, 2015 09:03pm

@Asghar The state should do what is the civilized thing to do which is exactly what Islam says... Islam never preaches anything uncivilized, it is the uneducated who think Islam does so.

Naeem Feb 19, 2015 10:01pm

Loving the Prophet is a necessary requirement of faith. Defending his honor is a sign of belief. This is done by following his teaching and practice, not by murdering in his name.

The Prophet forgave those who tried to kill him when he returned Victorious to Mecca. There is a lesson for us to learn in this.

Zain Ali Feb 19, 2015 10:08pm

This is just about a weak government. it is about the climate of fear and tolerance that a certain section of the society has cultivated - add insult to injury: all of it is built on deception and lies. So the civil society needs to work with the state institutions and prepare a strategy towards reformation of the law

S. A. Hyder, Ph.D. Feb 19, 2015 10:31pm

@Ahmad By getting rid of the mullahs.

S. A. Hyder, Ph.D. Feb 19, 2015 10:33pm

@Irongloves Future is BLEAK.

S. A. Hyder, Ph.D. Feb 19, 2015 10:35pm

@Pakistani Who will dare do that?

mike hasan USA Feb 19, 2015 10:40pm

Ironically most Blasphemy suspects are poor & ignorant. On top of that, the Law is being used in recent years to settle personal scores. The contention that leniency in Law will be used by anti islamists. Nobody will dare to do that. Acts of Blasphemy need to be defined very clearly & in minutest detail on the principle, innocent till proven otherwise.

Imran Feb 19, 2015 10:46pm

And then we blame the West for all our ills.

Prasad Feb 19, 2015 10:54pm


Datta Feb 20, 2015 12:06am

Legacy of Zia-Ul-Haq. Nothing will change a far as this law goes as long as the army which is the most powerful organisation in Pakistan, tacitly supports the law. Moreover we in India just do not understand the need to be so intensely and violently protective of a religion which has shown such phenomenal growth and frankly Prophet Muhammad's name hardly needs to be 'protected' in this manner by thugs and self styled upholders of the Religion.

Umair Feb 20, 2015 12:27am

Excellent research on the issue, Whole life of Prophet Muhammad PBUH clearly pronounces Mercy and Rehmat. If some one is not habitual and repents his one time folly, he must be pardoned with soem warning or monetary punishment rather than capital punishment

Naman Shah Feb 20, 2015 12:35am

Blasphemy will remain a pet subject in Pakistan because Pakistan is a backward country that has no foresight to think ahead and be among the leading countries of the world. Period.

Ohmmmm Feb 20, 2015 12:49am

It is a pity that mere mortals are trying to protect the Almighty!

Seedoo Feb 20, 2015 12:54am

Why even treat blasphemy as an offense to begin with? This is a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line? There is no limit to people's sensitivity. Would a criticism of the work of Ibn Taimiya, because it offends his followers' sensitivity, be regarded as blasphemy also?

Gurjot Singh Dhilon Feb 20, 2015 01:02am

Promoting secular agenda will repudiate the very foundation of Pakistan. Based on this, it is obvious that Pakistanis do not have any option but to be shielded by the ulema. Ignorance is bliss.

jagmohan Feb 20, 2015 01:37am

@Arafat Sahib and the Dawn both deserve highest respect for such an objective article on the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan.It is quite tormenting to the moderate mind that sharia provides leniency and even some of Islamic scholars,yet opinion of hard core mullahaas and political set up is against it.It is blackening the image of Pakistan and enhancing culture of intolerance and the country is paying highest cost in terms of rampant and every day rising radicalism.The situation has become so horrible that guns and techniques of bomb disposal are entering in schools,instead of books and pens and science labs.There seems to be some calculation that terrorism will continue for generations to come.This is hopelessness and defeatist attitude and hardly behoves of a modern progressive state. This is the time to get rid of unwanted radicalization sown by dictatator Zia.

Ajaya K Dutt Feb 20, 2015 01:44am

Thanks and accolades for you for this courageous and meticulous study. You are not just a ray of hope for Pakistan but whole sub-continent.

Dr. Sehar Khan Feb 20, 2015 02:11am

Congratulation to Dawn News and Arafat Mazhar...That's called Fair & Balance reporting....Job Well Done!!!

dawn Feb 20, 2015 03:46am

@valiya - Rather respect for the prophet for mankind.

Johnny Feb 20, 2015 04:36am

Why blasphemy remains unpardonable in Pakistan? The answer is simple that Pakistanis along with other Muslims have lost their sense of identity and feel beaten up in all fields. Instead of working hard to improve they are looking for answers elsewhere. One of easiest place is to blame minorities and anyone with progressive ideas as enemy. They lynch such unfortunates and think that they are helping their God to re-establish His kingdom. They hope that once the God is helped back on his throne they will be rewarded.

Datta Feb 20, 2015 04:46am

@Pakistani we are seeing medieval history being played out in Pakistan in the 21st century. Most people who have tasted blood by using this archaic and inhuman law will be loathe to give it up. Since the army is showing no desire to support the idea to repeal or even dilute the Law, and none of the political parties in Pakistan have the belly to push through an agenda for change, there is no hope that Pakistan will see daylight in the foreseeable futute. In no other country, except perhaps Saudi Arabia, do the minorities live in such constant fear of rertibution.

I think Feb 20, 2015 05:11am

may be this law is a conspiracy of outside powers who want to destroy fabric(100 % green) of Pakistan.

Gp65 Feb 20, 2015 05:34am

First of all a lot of these accusations of blasphemy on non-Muslims are driven by land mafia as we saw in the Rimsha Masih case.

Secondly, when it is obvious that the accusation was maliciously false, there is no consequence for the person who falsely accused.

So the way in which this law operates itself has a problem. But there is a bigger problem : why shold you expect that non-Muslims respect your objects of reverence any more than you are expected to respect their objects of reverence? Would it be okay if in India any Muslim who refuses prasad from a pooja is branded a blasphemer (regardless of punishment for blasphemy) or that in USA if a Muslim does not agree that Christ is son of God then he is a blasphemer? It sounds silly right? If someone does ot believe in our faith why would you demand that they respect your objects of reverence?

Ram Feb 20, 2015 05:38am

The analysis is so brilliant that a small shadow appears as to whether there is support coming from christian missionaries in some form. this is because elsewhere in the world truth is the biggest casualty in a western narrative of all events. conflicting interests may therefore be declared. However,praise again.nothing like this ever appears in indian newspapers

Faisal Feb 20, 2015 05:43am

Excellent piece of detective work on subject we are all passionate about. What astounds me the most is the fact that the original advocate of the law, Ismaeel Qureshi, never stepped forward to publicly acknowledge his oversight, or even comment on this blog. Is this how a professional religious scholar ought to behave? This is an alarming act of shear callousness and it showcases how our society operates as a whole. As a country and a nation, we have nothing substantial to offer to the rest of the world (except for cheap labor)….but we happily go about giving credence and overarching legitimacy to leaders with less than ideal professional and personal integrity : it’s a recipe for disaster for my beloved Pakistan, may Allah help us all!

BNS Feb 20, 2015 06:28am

You are doing a great job. May Allah keep you safe.

Kirpal Feb 20, 2015 06:30am

Till 1857 we hardly had any historical record of death punishment for blasphemy although most parts of undivided India were ruled by Muslim kings. That shows that those rulers were more liberals than modern day Pakistani rulers who under the threat of so called religious leaders are unable to provide protection to minorities against unjust law of blasphemy. During 16th century AD Sikh Gurus have written that don't believe in Kuran and neither in unbelievable tales of Puranas. Believe in hard work and honest living in this world. No Mughal ruler punished them for blasphemy.

Shamoon Ahmad Feb 20, 2015 07:05am

What is the punishment for hiding religious facts from the public. What is the punishment for the distortion of a well documented Hanafi Fiq. Ullema of CII are supposed to be the guardian of Islam. It is expected from them to punish the transgressor, even if he is one of them.

Iqbal Feb 20, 2015 07:37am

These people are not "religious forces" learned though they may be. They are power hungry political forces who use religion to further causes and quest for control over their society. They can suppress, distort and misrepresent the Law to suit their needs.

kausar Feb 20, 2015 07:37am

What a brave step . We need to educate our nation. They should wake up from their deep sleep n stood sturdy against such laws . For once try to look at the situation with open eyes n get rid of this. Wonderful article.

T Chaudhry Feb 20, 2015 07:45am

Wrong interpretation of Islamic law to meet the petty needs of the religio- political actors not only defamed Islamic Jurisprudence but also played havoc with their nation. They thrust the nation into a vicious circle from which there is no escape until and unless Mullas acknowledge their lie about blasphemy law.

A. Khan Feb 20, 2015 07:59am

Thank you for proving my point that the blasphemy law is a man-made law not a divine revelation. Unfortunately, all my previous comments are moderated out and I expect this one will be remove by the cowardly moderator also.

Jag Feb 20, 2015 08:06am

Kiamat appears be not too far. Let them relish their moments closer to the JANNAT. Amen.

illawarrior Feb 20, 2015 08:31am

@ashok kumar lal What has the military got to do with blasphemy? Blasphemy is a religious issue, let god deal with it.

illawarrior Feb 20, 2015 08:33am

@just_someone I suppose that very much depends on your definition of "civilised".

Najam Saeed Feb 20, 2015 09:14am

Religion is hijacked by extremists and fanatics and everyone is afraid to stand upto them including the government. In the meantime innocent lives are being lost. The charts in the article clearly show how inhumane and intolerant we have become. It is so sad that mob mentality has taken over and sensible, knowledgeable, and learned people like Ghamidi have no place in Pakistan.

local Feb 20, 2015 09:14am

Reflection of the mind set of many people. How can this nation ever progress? how does the government expect others to come to Pakistan, how can Pakistan ever be a safe place to live. This nation suffers mentally, perhaps the most indoctrinated nation amongst all nations.

TooTrue Feb 20, 2015 09:22am

The thinking behind this law is in every fiber of your being. Even Dawn, supposedly liberal, will not publish what I really want to say about this matter, partially out of sympathy with such thinking and partially out of fear of the frenzied mob. An allegedly liberal and educated Pakistani will do double-speak when confronted with this issue. They will say: "I condemn this murder BUT the murdered shouldn't have said [...]." This is the nub of the problem when you can't even say to yourself that under no circumstances should someone be murdered for what they say or think. This will probably never see the Dawn of light thanks to the thought police (pun intended), but hopefully it might at least get the though censor police to think. Think people that's all we can hope for.

Shubs Feb 20, 2015 09:29am

Looking in from the outside secular world, all this seems to be extremely bizarre, more suited to a discussion in the middle ages! However, one understands that if reform needs to happen in countries like this, built on religion and for religion, it needs to happen from inside rather than be imposed from outside. Hence perhaps this is an important discussion to have within Pakistan, and I congratulate the author for getting into the weeds and taking on the mullah-politician nexus at their own game.

thank you Feb 20, 2015 09:31am

thank you for summing it up, and showing that it all boils down to intolerant minds and misplaced ideas of the "greater good" that serves nothing but individual and political interests of a certain group bent on touting their narrative for the society

pavan reddy Feb 20, 2015 09:47am

Hope people of pakistan understand blasphemy laws are used for political and personal reasons rather than will of god.

Syeda Ali Feb 20, 2015 10:00am

Great work & analysis. Any educated, open minded person can get convinced of what you are saying. However we have many educated yet illiterate population in our surroundings.

lkhan Feb 20, 2015 10:24am

Once again Dawn thank you for an amazingly enlightening series of articles on blasphemy law. That the Sharifs were instrumental in the implementation of draconian laws that went against the majority of the ulemas' decision is an eye opener. How can one believe NS's words against terrorism, both good (!) and bad, considering his and his Aba ji's interference in the rule of law, the politicising of our institutions, indeed continuing to bastardise them with total impunity, and seeing how certain radical groups are entrenched in the Punjab with their blessing? What a holy mess and excuse the pun.. Please continue to write more on such issues, I hope in the near future to read of when/how our bureaucracy, judiciary, police forces and other institutions were politicised... some decades ago, I believe they were perfectly respectable institutions that flourished on merit and of world class level.

Shehzad Zafar Feb 20, 2015 10:29am

Ok but what if a person do this offence repeatedly like newpaper editor in France and Denmark.

Ravi Dallas TX Feb 20, 2015 10:34am

Because Pakistan does not believe in humanity.

observer Feb 20, 2015 11:00am

After presenting our evidence of the factual inaccuracies from which the current narrative draws its strength, we asked for their opinion. We got the same answer – that it is a matter of maslihat (public good). It is not in the best interest of the public that information like this be openly disseminated.

According to them, revealing this will help the mission of the 'secular agenda' in the country.

In short, they will manipulate the Holy Quran, the Hadees and the Shariah to uphold a falsehood.

Are these the people that Muslims have been repeatedly warned against?

observer Feb 20, 2015 11:06am

@Ram However,praise again.nothing like this ever appears in indian newspapers

You mean India has Blasphemy Laws that no one is willing to discuss in public? May be you can start with providing us a list of such laws here.

Rienz Feb 20, 2015 11:37am

@Sarmad Islam is a Way of Life. Just like Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Bhuddism etc etc. By calling any one religion as "truth", you automatically condemn every non-muslim on the planet (i.e. 5.5 Billion people). The world needs peace and unity, NOT division and exclusion in the name of religion.

uma Feb 20, 2015 11:53am

Healthy cell in human body can turn into cancerous cells through genetic mutation. I have not heard a single case where a cancerous cell has turned into a healthy cell through (reverse) genetic mutation. In a degenerating human body , decay & death is the final destiny. We can only take steps to delay the death.

The Pakistani military rulers (Zia) unknowingly introduced an irreversible process in the system. What makes it irreversible , is the islamic legitimacy which the blasphemy law has acquired over a period of 3 decades. It has fallen into a Middle age trap !

ubermeow Feb 20, 2015 12:01pm

@Gurjot Singh Dhilon

You have nailed it. The fear of loss of identity is worse than suffering under a forced religious circumference.

Amna Gi Feb 20, 2015 12:04pm

@Datta, Very, Very well said. You speak my mind.

Pawan Feb 20, 2015 12:15pm

Is the concept of truth so week or fraile that it will get sullied if someone thinks of it in a different way? Truth is beyond the interpretations of a few. Truth has many aspects and every religion believes in the creator of this enormous universe, with its varied expressions of life and death across galaxies. It is certain 'illiterate' and 'sick' persons who deliberately create a fear psychosis amongst people saying an utterance of something not in line with their own ideas, will destroy truth. This is only to wield power in their own hands. Poor souls!

Pawan Feb 20, 2015 12:22pm

The only solution to all such mayhem is: Re-think the concept of Pakistan not as thriving ONLY because of religion but as a nation of humans whose creativity and intelligence are to be used to develop itself as well as contribute to the welfare of the world. Religion happens to help people to live simple / humble lives to meet the above and enjoy the entire creation, and in time realize the one-ness of all.

adnan Feb 20, 2015 01:00pm

@Datta the host of the popular comic-academic-cum-political critique show on GEO TV - KHABARNAK, mr. Aftab Iqbal makes it a point to mention on every 2nd or 3rd show each week that and i quote '' Zia ul Haq's era was the most enlightened era for Pakistan, since her creation" this is the mind-set who is present in the highest TRP programming in the richest local TV/entertainment/news media group of Pakistan so there you go... pakistan's defenders are fighting amongst themselves most of the time. or were the Musharraf killers Caucasian ? fighting an aggressive and war-tuned neighbour's enemy doesn't have to be colored in 'jihad'. You sent your forces to Kargil to serve interests and cause of the country, just as they did.

Datta Feb 20, 2015 01:14pm

@I think there we go again - conspiracy theories are everywhere and the 'outside' hand is always making trouble. To use a metaphor, very seldom if at all, a marriage breaks up due to 'outside interference' unless the relationship is fundamentally weak. The endeavour should be to plug the holes not blame the 'outsider'.

L.Ahmad Feb 20, 2015 01:29pm

Muftis and their fatwas should not be taken seriously. These so-called muftis have assumed the mantle of a judge and are delivering misguided judgments. These judgments incite hatred and violence only. During the Second World War, the Mufti of Palestine Amin Hussieny was another misguided mufti who admired Hitler, befriended him in Berlin, and did a great disservice to the Palestinian cause.

Sheikh Raheel Feb 20, 2015 01:44pm

Only Prob is You cant Question a Aalim-e-Deen as many would tell you who are you to question them ? How Dare You that is what you hear from Common People or you lack faith and if u continue such acts they then will put up a blasphemy case against you. RIP PAKISTAN

TooTrue Feb 20, 2015 03:01pm

@Shehzad Zafar Nothing. How's that for a novel idea?

uma Feb 20, 2015 03:09pm


Total Economic Life = Outer Economic Life + Inner Economic Life. As a Person / Nation ages & matures , progressively reduce the outer economic life & progressively increase the Inner economic life. In the First Part Science-Technology helps us While in the Second Part , Religion helps us.

Science deals with the Objective aspects of Human life , While Religion deals with the Subjective aspects of Human Life. Both are essential & important . We need both. Religions need to evolve towards more & more personalisation & lesser & lesser socialisation. 21st century world needs more & more religious humans & lesser & lesser islamic or hindu or christian humans than before. A truly religious man is introspective & not political minded.

Saquib Saeed Feb 20, 2015 03:18pm

This article and its previous instalments are honed in excellent theocratic research. The author gives hope of a pardon to victims of our current blasphemy laws by pronouncing that blasphemy is pardonable. Our religious scholars tacitly acknowledge it too but would not go as far as to modify the current laws as in their view, that would go against the public interest. I simultaneously feel happy and rueful. The former because there might just be a way to soften this draconian law . The latter, because freedom of expression, something that humanity has learnt after millennia of repression and bloodshed, apparently still does not carry enough traction in Pakistan to trash this law. But a theocratic argument does

IBN E ASHFAQUE Feb 20, 2015 03:49pm

Nothing will happen. Injustice reins supreme in Pakistan in all forms, which in turn fuels intolerance and extremism. Accuse anybody for blasphemy and kill him or her all problem solved.

PakiAnon Feb 20, 2015 04:04pm

Such draconian laws only fuel the need for secularism to end this sectarian and religious hatred.

Aatif Naeem Mar 27, 2016 11:12pm

Our society breeds intolerance, bigotry and belligerence... from school till the grave... thats why.

Shridhar Subrahmanyam Mar 28, 2016 04:56am

Twisting and turning and tying yourself into knots over Islamic laws is not going to help. Pakistan must join civilised nations by becoming a secular country leaving religion to the mosques.

Asif Mar 28, 2016 08:14am

Intolerant people jumping to point intolerance of others.

1st Worlder Mar 28, 2016 08:25am

Thank you for shedding light on the plight of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Ahmadis preach peace and tolerance worldwide, and it is completely unjust that they face this institutionalized persecution that you speak of.