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Activists of Ahle Hadees Ittehad Council protest during an anti-Shiite rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 20. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, I sent a tweet — intended as a commentary on Pakistan’s problem of political abductions — that sparked a violent backlash of gender-based slurs, slut-shaming and death threats. By the next day, #ArrestMarviSirmed_295C became the top trending Twitter hashtag in my country, with countless people suggesting my extrajudicial murder. They took their inspiration from Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. (Section 295-C makes it a criminal offense to use derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet.) The hatred and calls for violence sent me into hiding, fearing that vigilantes might take matters into their own hands. The mere accusation of blasphemy has become a license to kill in most of the Muslim world, particularly in Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of Pakistan’s new religious right protesting the court decision overturning Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction, in Lahore on Wednesday. Irfan Chudhary/Barcroft Media, via Getty Images

After spending eight years on death row, Asia Bibi, a Christian, was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court this week. For many here it seemed like a good day. The country’s highest court had finally delivered justice and released a woman whose life has already been destroyed by years in solitary confinement. The court decision quoted Islamic scriptures, bits of letters by the Prophet Muhammad and a smattering of Shakespeare. A great wrong was righted.

And that’s why Pakistan’s new religious right, which has rebranded itself as the protector of the Prophet’s honor, has threatened to bring the country to a halt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twenty-Seven. That’s the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday — my brother Shehryar’s 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 p.m., as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father’s voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.…  Seguir leyendo »

The cold-blooded murder this week of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province, answers a few questions with stark clarity, just as it raises others.

Taseer’s killing provides the government and citizenry an unequivocal and unpleasant reminder that state appeasement of extremist groups does not work. The Punjab provincial administration run by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif needs to accept that its historical and ongoing tolerance of violence by extremist groups is simply untenable. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party-led federal government must also take a hard look at its conduct in events culminating in Taseer’s murder.

When Asia Bibi on Nov. 8 became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, the verdict was widely denounced, including by key members of the government, such as Taseer.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was less than a month ago that a Muslim cleric from Peshawar, Yousaf Qureshi, publicly offered money to anyone who would kill Aasia Bibi; kill in the name of the blasphemy law. Despite the public announcement and incitement to murder for money, no action was taken against this man. It was overlooked as an emotional outburst.

However, these public incitements to murder and violence do not always end there; there are many waiting to carry out such acts in the name of religion. On Tuesday, one such man gunned down Salman Taseer, Punjab governor, business tycoon and a vocal critic of abuse of the blasphemy law.…  Seguir leyendo »

In June 2009 in Punjab, Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a mother of five and a farmhand, was asked to fetch water. She complied, but some of her Muslim co-workers refused to drink the water, as Bibi is a Christian and considered "unclean" by them. Arguments ensued, resulting in some co-workers complaining to a local cleric's wife that Bibi had made derogatory comments about the prophet Muhammad. A mob reportedly stormed her house, assaulting Bibi and her family.

However, the police initiated an investigation of Bibi, not her attackers. She was arrested and prosecuted for blasphemy, under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code.…  Seguir leyendo »