Here are some key facts about blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
The daughters of Aasia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS
ISLAMABAD: Salmaan Taseer was killed by his bodyguard on Tuesday for advocating reform of the country’s strict blasphemy laws, used recently to sentence a Christian woman to death.
Here are some key facts blasphemy laws in the country:
- In 1927, the British colonial rulers of the sub-continent made it a criminal offence to commit “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief”. The law did not discriminate between religions
- The law was retained when Pakistan gained independence in 1947 under the rule of the country’s moderate founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah
- Pakistan’s late military ruler Mohammed Ziaul Haq, who was in power for 11 years from 1977, made several additions to its blasphemy laws, including life imprisonment for those defiling or desecrating the Holy Quran
- In 1984, followers of the minority Ahmadi sect, who believe that Ahmad was a prophet, were banned from calling themselves Muslims, punishable with three years in jail
- The death penalty for anyone found guilty of defaming Islam was introduced in 1986
- Ten blasphemy cases were reportedly heard in court in the 58 years between 1927 and 1985, but since then more than 4,000 cases have been handled
- A Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, was sentenced to hang in Punjab last November after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammed following a row with Muslim women in her village
- Lawmaker Sherry Rehman from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party sparked fury later that month when she lodged a private member’s bill, seeking to abolish the death penalty and clarify the law on blasphemy
- On December 30, 2010, the PPP-led government announced it had no intention of amending the blasphemy law
- On December 31, 2010, businesses went on strike across Pakistan in protest over moves to amend the law despite international controversy over Bibi’s death sentence
- Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy. Most of those given the death penalty have their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal
- Taseer was killed in a hail of bullets by his bodyguard on Tuesday for vocally seeking to amend the law and appealing for clemency for Bibi