Lesson from Pakistan

A Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy and was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court is likely to be flown out of the country as the landmark verdict sparked countrywide protests and death threats from hard-line groups. Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement. The top court’s judgement, which was pronounced Wednesday, triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors, led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country. Situation is so bad that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had to make an urgent televised address to the nation appealing for peace.
Her case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given death sentence. Asia Bibi was the first woman who was given death sentence under the blasphemy laws. Extremist Islamism has already encroached into Pakistan’s official state narrative since 1980s. After the 9/11 attacks in the US, an era of Talibanisation of wider society ensued, bringing the war home to Pakistani citizens. India should learn a lesson from Pakistan and do not allow the religious fundamentalists to dictate the terms. In the last few years few fanatic Hindu groups are making every effort to turn India into Pakistan by trying to impose themselves over minority groups. They have tacit support of ruling establishment. Perhaps what is happening in Pakistan should be a warning signal to those who values secular and democratic ethos of India. There should be a strong movement to safeguard the secular identity of country.