Pakistan’s ambassador to the US charged with blasphemy

Pakistan has draconian blasphemy laws on the books. The latest bizarre turn in their use is that the Pakistani ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman has been accused of it.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used as political weapons to intimidate and harm people that the religious nuts in the country dislike. It carries the death penalty if one is convicted. The law is an abomination that should have no place in a society and major figures in the country have recognized this. But it is vigorously defended by the religious fanatics who are so influential in that country. A governor of a Pakistani province was murdered for speaking out against the laws and his murderer was hailed by many.

As a member of the Pakistani parliament in 2010, Rehman had advocated for changes in the blasphemy laws and it is likely that she has been targeted for that reason. In this case, a viewer of a TV program in which she appeared said that she had ‘disparaged’ prophet Mohammed and brought blasphemy charges against her, even though there was nothing that she said that seemed to justify that claim and it seems unlikely that a savvy politician would gratuitously say something that explosive in such a context. But now the Pakistan Supreme Court has allowed the petition for blasphemy to go forward.

Pakistan has all the potential to be a modern country and yet it is being held back by religious fanaticism and relics of the past, such as its blasphemy laws. In fact, the entire sub-continent of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka all have the potential for great economic and social progress if they can just remove this albatross of religion hanging around their necks.


  1. raven says

    Salman Taseer, Punjab Governor, Shot Dead in Islamabad …
    www. nytimes.c om/2011/01/05/world/asia/05pakistan.html?…all

    Jan 4, 2011 – ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The assassination of an outspoken secular politician by one of his elite police guards on Tuesday plunged the …

    Sherry Rehman may well be assassinated.

    The governor of Punjab, one of the main provinces of Pakistan was assassinated by his own bodyguard for opposing the blasphemy law.

    It doesn’t take much to be murdered in Pakistan. The latest targets are health care workers trying to eradicate polio. Because polio is so much fun, I guess.

  2. raven says

    AFAICT, Pakistan is on its way to being a failed nation state.

    There are so many internal armed conflicts, it is hard to keep track of them.

    A civil war in the province with Baluchis.

    The Sunnis attack the Ahazaras for being Shi’ites.

    The Taliban attack everyone.

    The Sunnis attack and persecute the Almadhyis, xians, Pagans, and Sufis.

    When they get bored with all that, they fight it out with health cae workers and the Hindus next door.

  3. steffp says

    Fund for Peace already lists Pakistan as #13 on its “failed states list”., alongside Somalia, DRC, Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan, Haiti and Yemen… Criteria are:
    Mounting demographic pressures.
    Massive displacement of refugees, creating severe humanitarian emergencies.
    Widespread vengeance-seeking group grievance.
    Chronic and sustained human flight.
    2. Economic
    Uneven economic development along group lines.
    Severe economic decline.
    3. Political
    Criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state.
    Deterioration of public services.
    Suspension or arbitrary application of law; widespread human rights abuses.
    Security apparatus operating as a “state within a state”.
    Rise of factionalized elites.
    Intervention of external political agents.

  4. David Marjanović says

    AFAICT, Pakistan is on its way to being a failed nation state.

    What do you mean by “nation state”? In the senses I’ve encountered, Pakistan never was one and was never meant to be one; it was intended as a state for the Muslims of what had just ceased to be British India.

  5. atheist says

    NATO forces have been occupying Pakistan’s neighbor Afghanistan for more than a decade now, and the USA carries out secretive military ops in Pakistan using both robotic drones and special forces troops. In recent years Pakistani opinion of the USA has gotten more and more negative *. I would imagine that this poor relationship between the two nations has something to do with the absurd blasphemy charges against Ambassador Rehman, in addition to the religious fanaticism that Mr. Singham correctly cites.
    * “Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.”, Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, June 27, 2012

    Following a year of tensions between their country and the United States, Pakistanis continue to hold highly unfavorable views of the U.S. and offer bleak assessments of the relationship between the two nations.

    Roughly three-in-four Pakistanis (74%) consider the U.S. an enemy, up from 69% last year and 64% three years ago. And President Obama is held in exceedingly low regard.

  6. atheist says

    What do you mean by “nation state”?

    Definition of concept: nation state. (Wikipedia link.) The short version is that it simply means a country, a geopolitical unit like the USA, Mexico, India, Zimbabwe or Sweden. It is a political entity (a state) associated with a particular cultural one (a nation).

  7. atheist says

    Nation State:
    From Merriam Webster:

    A political entity (a state) associated with a particular cultural entity (a nation).

    From Wikipedia:

    The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit.[1] The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term “nation state” implies that the two geographically coincide. Nation state formation took place at different times in different parts of the earth but has become the dominant form of state organization.

    The concept and actuality of the nation state can be compared and contrasted with that of the multinational state, city state,[2][3][4] empire, confederation, and other state forms with which it may overlap. The key distinction from the other forms is the identification of a people with a polity.

    Pakistan fits the definition of nation state.

  8. Rodney Nelson says

    Pakistan is on its way to being a failed nation state.

    A failed nation state with nuclear weapons.

  9. Ravi Venkataraman says

    Polio workers may bd specially targeted in Pakistan because bin Laden’s whereabouts were determined by a doctor working for the CIA who happened to be administering polio vaccines. Thus, all polio related health workers may be suspected as CIA agents.

  10. sailor1031 says

    “A failed nation state with nuclear weapons.”

    Yeah! but our government spends its time worrying about Iran which doesn’t have nuclear weapons. What’s more likely? Iran will give terrorists nukes it doesn’t have? Or Pakistan will give terrorists (that it already has close ties with) nukes it does have?

  11. atheist says

    This is precisely why the US needs to stop destabilizing Pakistan with drone strikes and black ops. Because were a coup by an extremist party to succeed there, that extremist party would have nukes. That said, something should be understood about the majority of Pakistanis: they don’t like the Taliban or Al Qaeda *. Note the support from within Pakistan that young student Malala Yousafzai received after being shot by the Taliban **.
    * same link I posted earlier, “Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.”, Pew Research Global Attitudes Project. Further down the page, note the following:

    While concerns about extremism may have decreased, extremist organizations remain largely unpopular. Majorities, for example, express a negative opinion of both al Qaeda and the Taliban, as has been the case since 2009. In 2008 – before the peak of the Swat Valley conflict – pluralities expressed no opinion about these organizations.

    ** “Malala Yousafzai” Wikipedia page, sections “Public Reaction” and “Conspiracy Theories”.

  12. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “Pakistan fits the definition of nation state.”

    Nope. The concept arose in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, and was driven by Romantic nationalism. A nation state has a clear majority nation (usually defined by language) that lives mostly within the borders.

    From Wikipedia –
    “More than sixty languages are spoken in Pakistan, including a number of provincial languages.”
    “The population comprises several ethnic groups. As of 2009, the Punjabi population dominates with 78.7 million (44.15%), followed by 27.2 million (15.42%) Pashtuns, 24.8 million (14.1%) Sindhis, 14.8 million (10.53%) Seraikis, 13.3 million (7.57%) Muhajirs and 6.3 million (3.57%) Balochs. The remaining 11.1 million (4.66%) belong to various ethnic minorities.[227]”

    Most Pakistani nations live also outside Pakistan, especially in India and Afghanistan. So Pakistan is a multinational state, as it was designed to be. Religion doesn’t define a nation. Neither does a flag.

  13. atheist says

    OK, fair enough, I see that by the generally accepted definition Pakistan is not a nation-state, it is a multi-ethnic state. I feel we should be clear that by this definition most western nations such as the USA, France, or Australia are not nation states either, as these all would be multi-ethnic states too.

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