Blasphemy law in Pakistan

The Pakistan Penal Code, the main judicial law of Pakistan, prohibits blasphemy (Urdu: قانون توہین رسالت‎) against any recognized religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. From 1967 to 2014, over 1,300 people have been accused of blasphemy, Muslims constitute the majority of those booked under these laws.[1]

Over 60 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered before their respective trials were over,[2][3] and prominent figures who opposed the blasphemy law have been assassinated.[1] Since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations.[4]

According to one religious minority source, an accusation of blasphemy commonly subjects the accused, police, lawyers, and judges to harassment, threats, attacks and rioting.[5] Critics complain that Pakistan's blasphemy law "is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas,"[6] but calls for change in the blasphemy laws have been strongly resisted by Islamic parties - most prominently the Barelvi school of Islam.[4] Pakistan's laws became particularly severe between 1980 and 1986, when a number of clauses were added to the laws by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq, to "Islamicise" the laws and deny the Muslim character of the Ahmadi minority.[1] Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported.[2] Parliament through the Second Amendment to the Constitution on September 7, 1974, under Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's patronage declared Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims.[7] In 1986 it was supplemented by a new blasphemy provision also applied to Ahmadi Muslims (See Persecution of Ahmadis).[8][9]

Cases under blasphemy law have also been registered against Muslims who have harassed non-Muslims.[10][11][12]

Constitution

By its constitution, the official name of Pakistan is the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" as of 1956. More than 96% of Pakistan's 167 million citizens (2008) are Muslims.[13] Among countries with a Muslim majority, Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws. The first purpose of those laws is to protect Islamic authority. By the constitution (Article 2), Islam is the state religion. By the constitution's Article 31, it is the country's duty to foster the Islamic way of life. By Article 33, it is the country's duty to discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian, and provincial prejudices among the citizens.[14] Under Article 10A of constitution it is also the state's duty to provide for the right of fair trial.[15]