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.

28 thoughts on “Dominance Without Toleration

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  6. Dear Blue Dot, No. Actually it does not mean that. I am all in favor of selling this story as useful propaganda in faraway lands where the actual threat of American imperialism is great and Jihadism is not a factor (say, in Nicaragua or El Salvador) but factually it is not true. Even in Afpak I, the extreme jihadi focus was “our” idea (though the CIA no doubt loved it). America wanted the Russians humbled, we made sure the humbling was done by jihadi terrorists. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking only White people have dreams and plans. We can have our own dreams and our own plans. And we can use the White man even as he uses us….

  7. ignoramus from next door (in a subcontinental sense) butting in on neighbourly angst with a simple-minded question: doesn’t the timeline of the laws suggest a connection to the transformation of Pakistan into the staging ground of the CIA’s Afghan jihad against the Soviets? A classic case of the manufacture of “fundamentalism”/despotism under the aegis of US neoimperialism? funding, schools, etc etc?
    isn’t it also strange that the attacks on Shias and Christians coincide again with AfPak II? aren’t the bombings a sure sign that the eagle has landed?

  8. Its just one doctor and he is Ismaili. The Aga Khan is a well known agent of imperialism.
    Colonized minds are looking at Pakistan through Western eyes.
    Every culture has its red lines, ours is the sacred status of the holy prophet (PBUH).
    China is the next superpower.
    Pakistan is a nuclear power.
    Most of this propaganda is generated by Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies.

    /I thought I would save the paknationalists the trouble of having to type a reply.

  9. 13. The Blasphemy laws have become the main vehicle of prosecution and persecution of non-Muslims since 1980s. And, of ” other nonMuslims”

    Well it turns out Muslims are not immune to persecution under this law either.
    There is story of this poor doc who may end up losing his life for despising a pharmaceutical represantitive named Muhammad. It also illustrates how creatively the laws can be applied once on the book.

    The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic,” regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

    Read here the Dawn story and despair

  10. I suppose middle aged people from the sub continent, like myself, tended to be complacent about an eventual course correction in this regard, but perhaps this is because we are out of touch with young people- late teens, early twenties- especially those completing professional or technical courses who are sure to play a vanguard role in the coming decade.
    What has happened, while our attention was distracted by the headlines, is a reduction in linkages across communities for young people. The result is you have the sort of situation Satre depicted in ‘the childhood of a leader’- a young man gains a sort of materiality, an authenticity, he turns into ‘a regular guy’, a ‘good egg’ by confessing- ‘no doubt, I’m a bit of a nutcase, but say what you like, I enjoy shouting ‘la’nat on those Shias’.’
    The odd thing is he can continue to revere the poetry of Ghalib and listen to the Qawwalis of Aziz Mian.
    What is frustrating is that there’s no real counter-argument we can offer. You can confute conspiracy theories, you can engage in theological debate- but when a young man with clear eyes and a robust body tells you shouting la’nat’ is fun, it feels good, anyway it’s not harmful to the health like smoking or drinking, so it’s my choice, my freedom- what is one to do?
    The younger generation did not create this problem. An older generation- generally free of sectarian prejudice- had instrumentalized communal violence for narrow political ends. Bhutto brings in the anti-Qadiani legislation. His executioner sponsors the Sipah e Sahaban. What is next? Full scale hostilities between Bahrelvis and Deobandis? Across the border in India, Bahrelvis are feeling neglected because the minority gets more attention from the Govt. These things can spill over.
    How is the rising generation to be educated to meet these challenges?

  11. Thanks for putting up this tragic but useful time-line. Of course, it should be read together with another list referring to the Ahmadi Muslims. And a third list referring to the Shi’ah Muslims. who too have been targets of sectarian fanaticism for some time. Recall the 62 Shi’ah doctors killed in Karachi in one year.
    There is much grandstanding going on. Gov. Taseer could have ordered an inquiry into the job done by the police in this case. He could have gone to Shekhupura and met with the accusers and the children and husband of Aasiya Bi. Instead he went to the jail to meet with her, and then introduced prematurely the matter of a presidential pardon. That gave an excuse to all the fanatics to come out full blast.

    Thankfully, many more voices challenging the oppression are now available in the media. In Urdu, many columns in Aajkal, Express, and even Jang have expressed sane views with urgency. In English, Dawn, Express Tribune, and Daily Times have constantly published editorials and columns. Incidentally, a recent column by Yasser Hamdani in the Daily Times was particularly good in exposing how Jinnah’s name was being used by fanatics in this matter.

  12. Completely unrelated to your post – but I love that image of Georgey boy. The mind boggles at how the man was the leader of the so called ‘Free world’. Even more – how once presidency was a revered position – and now it is one for ridicule.

  13. Oh my God!
    I cannot believe whatProf. Bukhari is saying in the first few sentences of his article in Nawai Waqt:
    hamaray paas tauheed ki koee aqlee daleel nahin […We do not have any logical basis for Monotheism…].
    Did this man even open up the Quran before writing this?

    Just my 2 cents!

  14. @anony
    Law of Islam is very clear regarding the honor of Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihi Wasallam, His companions and family members and the accused if found guilty is to be executed.
    Pray provide us evidence, starting from the Quran, where the so-called Law of Islam mentions such a punishment

    Just my 2 cents!

  15. Blasphemy laws should be there but the ambiguities in them should be removed. Anyone who is found using them for his/her own personal gain should be given strict punishment. Moreover, using blasphemy as a source to target minorities is a crime against teachings of Islam. It is time that we understand the reason why blasphemy laws were created at first place and their importance in creating a society free of hate-speech. The amendments introduced by Zia needs to be looked again and any loopholes shall be removed from them.

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  18. On Murtaza, I would pick choice A. There was a reason why daddy picked Benazir as his successor.

  19. Furthermore, it’s a shame militant islam has replaced militant leftism as the main opposition of the state. Figures such as Salamullah Tipu are fascinating. It’s tough to believe in 2010 that Pakistan was one inhabited with wild late 70s leftist revolutionaries who translated Che into urdu and committed banal hijackings. Worthy opponent dude.

    Anyone recommend any readings on this leftist oppositional era in pak?

  20. Regarding Murtaza Bhutto. A rich, spoiled clown who embraced fashionable leftism so he could take power and perpetuate pakistan’s governmental degredation.


    A real leftist, socialist, (sort of) secularist who could have steered Pak into a better, tolerant direction?

    will some of the experts here please comment

  21. Blasphemy laws ensure that such outrages will continue and their repeal will be resisted since they have served their purpose well. These blasphemy laws were put in place to enforce a hardline Islamist vision that the Pakistani security establishment regarded as a useful tool (some were true believers in it, others were using it as a tool, hard to say which group was larger, I personally lean towards the notion that most of our security elite are pure opportunists). In any case, they helped to create and nourish a mindset that the deep state considered desirable. But the project has run into a problem. The deep state also has an actual state to run. That actual state has to exist in a world that does not match Islamist fantasies. This real world can be very cruel and criminal, but its biggest gangsters are not Islamist gangsters, though they did use Islamist toughs in the bad neighborhoods. In fact, they now regard Islamist gangsters as something of a menace (though some may still regard them as useful to have around, provided they are confined to the barbarian lands). So the deep state has been forced to makes compromises. Those compromises have upset true believers. Now the deep state itself is fractured and confused. In such difficult times, they dont want to turn around and repeal the law and have a new crisis on their hands. Christians and Ahmedis are relatively powerless “little people”..Such risks will not be taken on their behalf. They will continue to live under this threat for the foreseeable future.
    About the self immolation, keep in mind that we are talking about a society where you can actually find someone willing to set themselves on fire in exchange for money. Do not underestimate the extent of the misery of the poor in Pakistan (or India, for that matter). We are part of the criminally corrupt upper classes, now richer than ever before, what is boiling below is frequently invisible to us.

  22. What gets my goat is this: No one makes the argument that, for Christians, Muhammad is their Mirza Ghulam Qadiani. They ought to be as free with their expression in regard to Muhammad as we are to Mirza Qadiani.

    Hilarious that this “Professor” Bukhari has Allama Iqbal leaving ‘Nathshay’ /Nietzsche speechless and dumb following an intimate pillow talk. Except Nietzsche died in 1900 and Iqbal left Cambridge for Germany only in 1907 or thereabouts. Who knew Iqbal could raise the dead and beat them around with a large copy of Bahishti Zewar?

    That the learned professor refers to Sipah Sahaba’s Azam Tariq adoringly as a Maulana in a mainstream publication is only a reflection of how far the syphillis of jihadism and bigotry has mutated Punjab’s cultural dna.

  23. I just remember Shantinagar because it was lead by Sipah-e-Sahaba and I’ve read about that stuff a lot. Timeline is moving nonetheless. Hope you read about two men who tried to immolate themselves in order to protest possible pardoning of Aasia. With people like these, we can’t even begin to imagine repelaing the law.

  24. Between point 4 and point 5, you forgot to mention, 1971, genocide attempted on the Hindu population of East Pakistan.
    Creates refugee problem inside India, East Pakistan liberated as Bangladesh.

    Traumatised state structure of Pakistan embraces Islam as a unifying force.

    Also, attacks may have occurred inside East Pakistan that are not spoken off.

  25. Shantinagar 1997?

    1. Yes. I wasn’t out to make an exhaustive list, but thanks for pointing to 1997.

  26. I agree that on so many occasions, the illiterate village farmers use the name of blasphemy to settle their personal rifts but Law of Islam is very clear regarding the honor of Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihi Wasallam, His companions and family members and the accused if found guilty is to be executed.

    So no one holds anything against one as long as any one be it muslim or non-muslim commits any of the above mentioned acts, everyone has equal right to enjoy the life in Pakistan but no one holds a single right to insult any of the religions (major or minor) that exists in Pakistan.

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