The history of the blasphemy law

Published: January 5, 2011
The daughters of Aasia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

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

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Usman Ashraf
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:22PM

    In above article one thing is missing that Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan in 1974. In means that the writer wants to point only General Zia but not to point out ZA Bhatto.Recommend

  • Karim Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:31PM

    A dark page indeed!Recommend

  • Dr. Ali Ahmed
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:45PM

    To my recall, death sentence was incorporated in 1990…Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 2:43AM

    all laws nt applicabe in Pakistan bt 1 law alwayas applicable thts,jungle ka kanoon,hum quaid ko roota hain apna app ko nahi dehkta,allam iqbal na kaha,qari nazr ata ha asal main ha quran,Allah huma behtreen kera…………farhanRecommend

  • Madiha Qadir
    Jan 6, 2011 - 4:12PM

    Is this a constitution or a joke? Recommend

  • Muhammad Salman Tabish
    Jan 10, 2011 - 1:38PM

    Eveyr Gustahkay Rasool|(S.A.W.W) should be hanged publically but no innocent should be prosecuted.Any person who brings any false charge of blasphemy should be punished with death to stop yhe misuse of this law.Recommend

  • syed shahzada akbar
    Jan 12, 2011 - 7:22PM

    As Pakistan is an Islamic country so any person insulting Islamic system or mode of life or the uttering insulting language against the holly prophet and sacred book(Quran) should be harshly dealt and imprisoned.Recommend

  • kalia
    Jan 14, 2011 - 3:18PM

    Law should remain with very few modificaiton, if at allrequired. Few facts

    No one has been Hanged by his law as of today
    There total 4000 cases registered Under his law and 97% of cases are against Muslims Not minorities.
    Similar laws against freedom of speech exist in Europe & US Like “Holocaust against the jews” can’t be dicussed.
    We are muslim country and we should make laws according to our requirment.
    their are bigger evils in the country for crimes like Murder, rape, corruption etc ……

    Its propoganda to create a divide amongst the nation.Recommend

  • zulfiqar ali
    Jan 24, 2011 - 10:38AM

    to my recall. this law made in zia era, but not zia brought this law. must be hang any individual commit such acts whether muslim or non muslim. Recommend

  • Ali
    Jan 28, 2011 - 9:32PM

    just adding to the above facts

    in 1991 Muhammad Ismail Quraishi sought a petition in the Federal Sharia Court insisting that every the law should be death penalty only according to the shariat as opposed to the discretion of life imprisonment or heavy fine.

    however upon inquiry of the many references to the Holy Quran given throughout the judgment and the verses relied upon by the then court reveal a completely different picture.

    as they were either completely misinterpreted or out of context and hand picked to aid in the conclusion that was already there long before the case was even listened to in the court.

    anyone challenging this fact is free to look up at the references PLD FSC 1991 thanks.Recommend

  • Colt_Peacemaker
    Jan 31, 2011 - 4:55PM

    “…death penalty for anyone found guilty of defaming Islam…” Cements a remark about Islam “Indeed, Islam is a “religion” of peace. you BETTER believe it, or they will kill you to prove it” Constitutionally and judicially backed by the Government of Pakistan, So, What is next? Recommend

  • anwar
    Feb 16, 2011 - 8:21PM

    blasphemy should not be ammended but method of investigation and accusation shuold be done with transparensy Recommend

  • Anwar Dar
    Feb 16, 2011 - 9:07PM

    blasphmy law shuold not be ammended but care shoul be taken that no innocent wil be charged on basis of personal rivalry ……….Recommend

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