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Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party rally against Asia Bibi in Karachi, Pakistan, Oct. 12, 2018. Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party rally against Asia Bibi in Karachi, Pakistan, Oct. 12, 2018 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws Are Politically Toxic—and Often Lethal

Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021

Last summer, Tahir Ahmad Naseem was at a bail hearing in a high-security courtroom in Pakistan when he was shot dead. His killer, a 15-year-old student named Faisal Khan who had sneaked a pistol into the courtroom, was arrested immediately. But rather than facing public opprobrium, Khan was hailed as a hero. Thousands took to the streets to defend him, chanting slogans in his support and rallying for his release from prison. Police officers clicked jubilant selfies with him as they ferried the teenager in and out of court. 

Naseem, his victim, had been targeted both by the lawsuit and by Khan for allegedly committing an act most governments do not consider a crime: blasphemy. In Pakistan, however, insulting religion and, especially, insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad is punishable by death or life in prison, and accusations are often filed with minimal, if any, proof. ...

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