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A Close Look At Pakistan's Controversial Blasphemy Law

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Pakistanis support blasphemy laws

Police arrest supporters of a Pakistani religious group trying to rally in support of blasphemy laws, on the anniversary of the death of Salman Taseer, Pakistani governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, who was killed by his bodyguard in 2011 for opposing the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, in Lahore, Pakistan on Jan. 4, 2017.

K.M. Chaudhry

Six years ago Wednesday, a trusted bodyguard killed a former governor in Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer, because of his criticisms of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The law prohibits blasphemy against any recognized religion, with penalties that range from fines to death. Human rights advocates in Pakistan claim the law is used to stifle political dissent and target religious minorities.

Taseer’s son, himself a human rights activist, has been targeted by police and by a fatwa after his Christmas message criticizing the law. In December, a Pakistani court sentenced a media mogul and several TV and movie stars to 26-year prison terms for blasphemy. 

The Pakistani government has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy, but many - like Taseer - have been murdered through extrajudicial killings. 

We discuss the controversial law with Saroop Ijaz, an attorney with Human Rights Watch. Ijaz is based in Lahore, Pakistan.

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