Is the Pakistani state capable of standing up to blackmail?

Nov 08, 2018

WHEN A PANEL of three judges on Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned a poor Christian woman’s conviction for blasphemy, which carries a mandatory death sentence, it was, as one commentator, Zahid Hussain, put it, as if they had at last broken the country’s “ring of fear”. Nine years ago in the fields, Asia Bibi, a mother of five, had taken a sip of water before passing the jug on to fellow (Muslim) fruit-pickers. They said they could not share a drinking vessel with an “unclean” Christian, and demanded she convert to Islam. She refused, and soon a mob was accusing her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan’s main blasphemy law is breathtakingly sweeping. Anyone who defiles Muhammad’s name, even if “by imputation, innuendo or insinuation”, faces death. Since its introduction in 1986, several hundred people have been charged, with a disproportionate number either non-Muslims or Ahmadis, a persecuted sect who revere both...


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