By Maria Malik
Pakistan has an overwhelmingly Muslim community, which accounts for 95 per cent of its 216 million inhabitants. The Muslim population however belongs to several doctrinal groups. Sunnis are in the majority amongst Muslims, with Shia Muslims and Zikris facing discrimination. In 1974, the National Assembly of Pakistan has declared Ahmadis (also called Qadianis) a non-Muslim minority. There are several Christian denominations, Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Kalasha, Parsis and Sikhs who are identified as non- Muslim Pakistanis. The policy of Islamization in the 1970s and 1980’s, the subsequent rise of Taliban insurgency and the patronage of extremists groups by different political and religious groups in Pakistan have contributed to the intolerance and acts of violence against the religious and sectarian minorities of Pakistan.The vague terminology of the current legislation has in fact allowed for the misuse of Sections 295-298 PPC, and has resulted in the persecution of minorities and the poor by providing the dishonest complainant with a mechanism for settling personal vendettas through the flawed system of justice. The law that is designed to protect people has actually become a tool for promoting intolerance. Although a majority of those charged under this law are Muslims, yet the law has made the non-Muslims even more vulnerable. In addition to this, the manner in which the religious groups in Pakistan propagate the flawed laws has resulted in vigilantism and mob violence. The state has consistently failed to intervene and protect its people against violence by maliciously motivated elements and the certainty of impunity has encouraged them to commit lawlessness.
Insertion of section 298A into the PPC during the process of Islamization is considered as a threat for the religious and sectarian minorities in Pakistan. Although the Blasphemy Laws apply to all Pakistanis alike, whether Muslims or Non- Muslims, however the religious minorities are more prone when it comes to the ‘misuse’ of this law