1. According to the 1998 census, there are slightly more than 2 million Christians (1.59% of total population) distributed roughly equally across urban and rural areas. As a minority the Christian community in Pakistan is predominantly located in the province (state) of Punjab. Although sizeable communities are found in the cities of Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar as well.
1a. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 stated that in the Republic of Pakistan “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their ultures;” The Objectives Resolution was made the preamble in the 1973 Constitution. The word “freely” was removed.
2. The Church of Pakistan was amalgamated from Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican churches in 1970.
3. The earliest recorded attack on Christian communities was in 1952, when a family of 7 were burned alive in the village of Matti. The criminals were caught, prosecuted and hanged.
4. During the first two decades of Pakistan, Christian communities were largely integrated. They had a political party and in the 1951 and 1954 elections, they won four seats (each) in the local Punjab Assembly.
5. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan declared that “Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan” and restricted minority participation in government and politics.
6. General Zia ul Haq took over the state through a military coup in 1977 and the hung the deposed Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979. He also undertook a strict policy of “Islamization” through which laws and practices in the country were to brought in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence. Some of the most damaging new laws fell under the rubric of “Blasphemy”.
7. In 1980, he introduced Section 298-A under the Martial Law Ordinance which criminalized derogatory remarks against the earliest leaders in Muslim history, as well as the family and friends of the Prophet Muhammad. Section 298-B & C focused on disrespect to the holy book Qur’an as well as the declaration of apostasy towards the community of Ahmadis (a sect within Islam).
8. Section 298-A: Use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of Holy Personages:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife or members of the family of the Holy Prophet or any of the righteous Caliphs or companions of the Holy Prophet shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both
9. Section 295-B: Defiling etc. of copy of Holy Quran
Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.
10. Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet.
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.
11. Furthermore, in 1980, General Zia ul Haq by constitutional amendment created the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) through Article 203-D which had the following powers:
The Court may, either of its own motion or on the petition of a citizen of Pakistan or the Federal Government or a Provincial Government, examine and decide the question whether or not any law or provision of law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, hereinafter referred to as the Injunction of Islam.
12. In 1990, the FSC concluded that the “imprisonment for life” under Section 295-B and 295-C was unjust punishment according to Islamic law. The Sections were amended so that the only penalty remained was the death penalty.
13. The Blasphemy laws have become the main vehicle of prosecution and persecution of non-Muslims since 1980s. And, of ” other nonMuslims”
14. In Gujranwala, Punjab, in 1994, three men (including a minor) were accused of writing derogatory remarks against the Prophet. The three Christians, Rehmat Masih, Manzoor Masih and Salamat Masih were arrested. Manzoor Masih was murdered while awaiting trial. The others were acquitted after two years.
15. In Faisalabad, in 1998, Dr. Bishop John Joseph publicly committed suicide. He shot himself in front of the court room of Justice Rana Abdul Jabbar Dogar in protest of a death sentence that had been passed out against a Christian Ayub Masih for blasphemy on April 27th, 1998.
16. A series of terrorist attacks occurred in 2001 and 2002 against Christian establishments, perhaps as a result of Pakistani cooperation with United States in the war in Afghanistan: In October 29th, gunmen killed 16 Christians in the St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church near Multan. A grenade attack on International Presbyterian Church in Islamabad on March 17th, 2002 killed five and injured 40. Unknown assailants attacked Murree Christian School on August 5th, 2002 and killed six people. Unknown assailants attacked the Mission Hospital in Taxila on August 9th, 2002 and killed 4 nurses, injuring 21 others. Seven Christian workers of the charity “Idara Amn-o-Insaf” were killed on September 24th, 2002.
17. In November 2005, three churches, two schools and hostels and several houses of the Christian community were burned by a mob in the city of Sangla Hill. The mob had mobilized on the rumor that someone had blasphemed against the Prophet.
18. On September 27th, 2007 the missionary couple Rev Arif Khan and Kathleen Khan were killed in their house in Islamabad on September 27th, 2007.
19. In August 2009, 60 Christian homes were burned in Gojra, 7 women and children were burnt alive. The accused were granted bail November 05, 2010.
20. Just on November 15, 2010, a man accused of blasphemy, upon release on bail, was shot dead by unknown assailants.
The inhumane legal treatment of so-designated “minorities” in Pakistan is starkly repugnant.
Sign your name.
update: The debased thinking that underpins the “blasphemy” consensus in Pakistan is fully at display in this column by one Professor Syed Asrar Bukhari.