Pakistan’s Penal Code Section 295, better known as the Blasphemy Law, was first introduced to a pre-partition India in 1860. Back then, the law was applicable to every religion and any person with a maximum punishment up to two years with bail. And any disturbance of any religious gathering was also in violation of the law. There have been an estimated 1,274 people charged under the blasphemy laws between 1986 till 2010 according to reports.

1927:

• There was an amendment made after the loss of a controversial case defended by India’s leading lawyer M.A. Jinnah. The Indian legislature cautioned against using the words “intentional outrage” or “attempted outrage” for their vagueness and instead chose to use words such as “deliberate” or “malicious intent.”

1980-1986:

• Five amendments are made to Section 295; additions for derogatory remarks in respect to holy passages, defilement of the Holy Quran, and derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet.

1990:

• The Federal Shariat Court amends the life imprisonment sentence to include the option of the crime to be punishable by death. The FSC stated that the option for life imprisonment would expire on April 30th 1991 unless the National Assembly takes action before the expiration date.

1991:

• The National Assembly does not take action on life imprisonment as an option therefore the death penalty becomes mandatory punishment for in violation of Section 295.

1992:

• The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice proposes the deletion of “or life imprisonment” from section 295 but members felt that the section 295 was vague and needed to be defined by the Council of Islamic Ideology before any action is taken. The proposal for deleting an alternative punishment in sections 295 is opposed by the parliamentarians and PML government removes the bill from the agenda and the phrase “or life imprisonment” remains.

• Eighty-year-old philanthropist Akhtar Hamid Khan, a Muslim, is arrested for allegedly committing blasphemy during an interview with an Indian journalist. Later Khan was arrested again for blasphemy because he wrote a children’s poem that was interpreted as insulting the Prophet and his family. The case went through the court system for more than year despite persist demands from the intellectuals and other government officials.

1993:

• Salamat Masih, 11, Manzoor Masih, 38, and Rehmat Masih, 44, are accused of writing blasphemous remarks on a wall belonging to a mosque. Although the mother of Salamat Masih said that her son did not know how to read.

1994:

• Manzoor Masih is gunned and killed outside the District and Sessions Court after exiting a hearing in April. Salamat and Rehmat Masih got injured but survived. Bishop John Joseph speaks out against the attack.

• In August, the Masih case grants leave for appeal on the condition that the investigation is continued.

1995:

• Salamat Masih 14, and Rehmat Masih 46, got the death penalty in February.

• On February 23rd, Lahore High Court acquits Rehmat Masih and Salamat Masih based on the objectionable material since Christians were not familiar Arabic, they would not know how to write the name of Allah (swt) in Arabic. The bench included Justice Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti and Justice Chaudhry Khurshid Ahmad.

• A country-wide strike takes place by milli Yakjehti Council, which umbrellas many different religious, groups in May. Major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Chitral, Quetta, and Rawalpindi observed the strike.

1997:

• Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti is assassinated in his chambers at Lahore High Court.

1998:

• Ayub Masih is sentenced to the death penalty for making blasphemous remarks in April but his sentencing was suspended by the LHC.

• The Ayub Masih’s case receives international attention after Bishop John Joseph commits suicide on May 6th in front of parishioners at the court house in protest of the death penalty handed to Ayub Masih.

• The killer of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti was captured and said he killed the judge because he was on the bench that acquitted two Christian men, Salamat and Rehmat Masih in a blasphemy case.

2000:

• Younus Shaikh, a physician, with blasphemy on account of remarks that students claimed he made during a lecture. A judge ordered that Shaikh pay a fine of 100,000 rupees, and that he be hanged.

2003:

• Samuel Masih, a Christian, for allegedly defiling a mosque by spitting on its wall. While in prison, Masih contracted tuberculosis and was transported to a hospital. While in police custody Masih was killed by a police officer, who used a hammer to kill, and claimed that it was his duty as a Muslim to kill Masih.

• Police arrested Anwar Masih, a Christian and charged under Section 295. A neighbour reported to the police that Masih had insulted the. The LHC acquits Masih in 2005, and he goes into hiding.

• A court retried the matter and acquitted Dr. Younus Shaikh, who later fled Pakistan for Europe soon thereafter, in November.

2006:

• Christians and Muslims condemn Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code as blasphemous. The film is banned.

2009:

• Two Christians, both elderly men from Faisalabad, Punjab, are acquitted by the Lahore High Court in April. In 2006, the two men were sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly burning pages from the Quran, the allegation arose from a dispute over land.

• In July, members of Sipah-e-Sahaba, a banned Muslim organization, torched Christian homes and killed Christians in Gojra and Korian. The reason for the violence was that a Christian had defiled a Quran.

2010:

• In July, the Lahore High Court ordered the release of Zaibun Nisa, a woman who was jailed in 1996 on a charge of blasphemy – a complaint that the Quran had been defiled – because of the lack of evidence.

• Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death by hanging on a charge of blasphemy. The case has yet to be upheld by the Lahore High Court and has sparked international reactions.

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