To the article below, one can now add this unhappy piece of news:
The decision of a lower court to award the death penalty to a poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy has ignited a wide debate over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Liberals have asked that the Zia-era blasphemy law should be repealed or amended because it has become an instrument of oppression and injustice in the hands of mobs and gangsters (over 4000 prosecutions in 25 years with several gruesome extra-judicial executions). The religious right has mobilized its supporters to oppose any such amendment and regards these attempts as a conspiracy against Islam. Ruling party MNA Sherry Rahman has introduced a “private member bill” to amend the law and the governor of Punjab has intervened (somewhat clumsily) in the judicial process and indicated that a Presidential pardon is on the cards. The international media is arrayed against the law alongside Pakistan’s liberals and progressives, while the “deep state”, the Islamist front organizations and their mentors in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia are no doubt aligned on the other side. What will be the likely outcome of this struggle? It is always hazardous to make predictions, but let us make some anyway and try to state why these are the likely outcomes:
1. The law will not be repealed. Some minor amendments may be made (and even these will excite significant Islamist resistance) but their effectiveness will be limited. Blasphemy accusations will continue, as will the spineless convictions issuing from the lower courts. In fact, new blasphemy accusations will almost certainly be made with the express intention of testing any new amendment or procedural change (thus, ironically, any amendment is likely to lead to at least one more innocent Christian or Ahmedi victim as Islamists hunt around for a test case).