In December 2016, another controversy related to the blasphemy laws unraveled, after rights activist Shaan Taseer posted a Christmas message on his Facebook page, asking people to pray for those imprisoned under the laws.
Religious hardliners condemned the move, calling it ‘offensive’ to Islam. One group, the Sunni Tehrik, even issued a fatwa calling for Taseer’s death, while also filing a case against him under section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, for ‘hate speech’. The group pressed the police to register the charges under the harshest provision of the blasphemy laws, section 295-C (blasphemous comments against Prophet Muhammad), which carries the death penalty.
Six years earlier, Shaan Taseer’s father, Salman, then governor of the Punjab, was assassinated by one of his own security guards after demanding a government pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian berry-picker accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad during a heated argument with two Muslim co-workers. In many quarters, Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was hailed as a hero, underscoring the popularity of the blasphemy laws within Pakistan.