Dawn: This article is the second in a five-part series on the untold story of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Read the first part here.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law continues to sustain popularity and credence, with death being considered not only the most appropriate retribution for offenders, but the only one. This ideology is embraced most wholeheartedly when it comes to non-Muslims charged with blasphemy.
In my previous article when I spoke of the authentic Hanafi position on the permissibility of pardon for all blasphemers (Muslims and non-Muslims), the overwhelming response supported such a pardon for the likes of Junaid Jamshed (a ‘fellow Muslim brother who had offended some by mistake’) but held that the same principle of pardon could not be extended to non-Muslim offenders such as Asia Bibi.
This is largely reflective of the predominant public narrative on blasphemy.
Those who dissent – who speak of pardon and of waiving the death penalty, particularly for non-Muslims – are seen to be speaking from borrowed western ideologies or from a faith deemed too weak to be seen as a credible authority for the public. This has made it convenient for citizens to largely ignore those who plead for clemency, reducing these voices to a small, ineffective and irrelevant force, at best.