man reading the KoranAn article tracing the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and how little has been done to mitigate the adverse effects of their use by successive governments [credit: iStock]

The Muslims began conquests in India from the early eighth century and by the 12th century they were in control of India. By the 17th century, the western mercantile powers had started establishing their rule in parts of the subcontinent. The British finally emerged as the sovereign rulers of the entire India by 1849.

The British withdrew from the subcontinent in 1947 and consequently gave birth to two dominions—Pakistan and India. During the entire Muslim rule in India, Islam was never made the state religion and Shariah never became the dominant law of the land. The application of Shariah became a socio-religious discourse only after the formation of Pakistan. Interestingly, the religious lobby that is urging for the application of Shariah mainly consists of those who were against the formation of Pakistan.

Abstract to the article by Naeem Shakir: The arbitrary, discriminatory and oppressive application of blasphemy laws in Pakistan has been the cause of much discord and violence in recent years, affecting the non-Muslim population particularly harshly. This article traces the history of such laws and argues that the courts have done little to mitigate the adverse effects of their use by successive governments. The article calls for urgent and concerted international pressure to ensure that the Pakistani authorities respect their obligations under relevant legal instruments.

This article is being made free by Taylor & Francis at the website of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.