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It is outrageously easy to blaspheme in Pakistan. To be sure, a citizen may do so without even realising it; sometimes without having done so at all. The accusation is all that counts. As one journalist put it: “All you need to do to condemn someone for life is to switch on a mosque loudspeaker and make the allegation.”
Blasphemy laws in the Islamic Republic are now routinely used to settle disputes. A man whose car has been dented by the car parked in front (for example), need only inform the secret police that its owner has doubted the moral excellence of Mohammad, and his life will be ruined; a sentence of death placed on his head.
No-one is free or ‘above’ this suffocating atmosphere. A couple of months ago, a successful Pakistani actress (she had found fame in Bollywood) was declared guilty of blaspheming Islam. At the time of the accusation, the actress was in Dubai. Bewilderingly, she then declared a willingness to return to Pakistan to clear her name.
Politicians too can be brought down by this kind of mischief. As can lawyers, doctors and (of course) free-thinkers. What Pakistan appears to have perfected is a religious Stalinism, with the religious authorities replacing the KGB.
As Salman Hameed wrote in the Guardian: “(The) blasphemy law is devouring Pakistani society from within. It is an all-purpose tool in the service of intolerance. It has often been used against religious minorities, but Muslims are paying the price as well. The repeal of the law, unfortunately, is unlikely. Some voices critical of the law have already been silenced by intimidation and violence…”
If Saudi Arabia is the worst country in the world – as I have previously alleged – then Pakistan is working at breakneck pace to overtake it.