Pakistan’s Blasphemy Frenzy Hurts Foreign Relations


Religious frenzy and violence tied to the issue of blasphemy continue to plague Pakistan at a time when the country is going through a political, economic and security crisis. The issue of blasphemy has over the years not only killed innocents, torn apart Pakistani society, but also hurt relations with many of our neighbors and friends.


The recent incident in which a Chinese national working at Dasu hydropower project was accused of blasphemy and almost lynched by a mob is the latest in this ongoing saga.


According to news stories, “Labourers at the site were reportedly enraged over his objections to “precious time” being lost on account of prayer breaks and accused him of committing blasphemy. They then went and incited others in nearby villages about what had taken place; a large crowd gathered and tried to storm the Chinese camp where the foreign national was present. Fortunately, the cops arrived and managed to whisk him away to the police station from where he was airlifted to Abbottabad.”


In December 2021, a Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Kumara, and factory manager in Sialkot, was set upon by a hundreds-strong mob after being accused of blasphemy. In a bestial orgy of violence, they beat him to death and set his body on fire.


An allegation of blasphemy is all it takes in today’s Pakistan for a Hindu or Christian or Ahmadi and even a Sunni or Shia Muslim to lose their life, to uproot families or entire minority communities from their homes. Even the mentally handicapped have not been spared the fury of the ‘righteous’.


Unfortunately, as an editorial in Dawn noted, “bloodletting in the name of faith has not stopped. Punishment has clearly not been a deterrent. Nor has the law against blasphemy prevented vigilante killings. According to a study, 84 people were extrajudicially killed on allegations of blasphemy by March 2021 and around 1,450 people accused of the crime. Turning back the tide will take a Herculean effort, one that requires the state to abjure the strategy of using religion for political ends. Recent signs are not encouraging. But unless it is done, this society will continue to devour its own.”


Author: Mukhtar Ahmed