While everyone is worried about Syria and Iraq and Putin and refugees and ISIS, let’s take a quick trip to the other side of Iran to see what atrocity is going unnoticed in Pakistan.
ISIS is being scorned for murdering people in the name of Islam, as well they should be, but in the great country of Pakistan you can be executed for the same reason. That’s right. Under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws” you can be put to death or sentenced to prison for any number of vague reasons concerning the insult of Islam.
The sternest of the punishments comes from, even accidentally, saying something bad about the Prophet Muhammad. You can be executed by the state for that offense. Most people are not actually executed and end up occupying a Pakistani prison for the rest of their lives awaiting an appeal. Prisons in Pakistan are, to say the least, not as nice as American prisons.
There are a host of other ways that you can be charged with any of the violations under the blasphemy laws, because they do not require much proof and they do not make legal provisions that require you to even understand you were doing anything wrong (for the law buffs out there, this would be “mens rea”).
The laws are being used mainly by opportunists who want grab land from religious minorities or those who have grudges against people that would be easy to frame for these “crimes”.
Most of the cases reviewed by international commissions show that over 60% of those charged were falsely accused. Even though there are laws against perjury, none of those who have lied to imprison these people have been brought to justice.
While there are other Muslims who have been wrongfully imprisoned, there exists a gross imbalance of representation of religious minorities when the vast majority of the country of Pakistan identifies as Muslim.
Reports show 633 Muslims as having been charged with crimes that fall under the blasphemy laws, while Christians make up 187. Ahmedis and Hindus are also targets for the unfair application of these laws.
The laws do not seem to be going anywhere. Religious pressure has kept many politicians from speaking out. There are even those who have been assassinated. Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor, who was vocal about being against the laws was killed by his own bodyguard.
There are few in Pakistan who would face the imminent threats to speaking out against these laws. This isn’t a rogue organization. This is the majority.