The Pakistan Penal Code prohibits blasphemy against any recognised religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death.
An accusation of blasphemy commonly subjects the accused, police, lawyers, and judges to harassment, threats, and attacks. An accusation is sometimes the prelude to vigilantism and rioting.
Calls for change in the blasphemy laws have been strongly resisted by Islamic parties. Prominent figures like Salman Taseer (the former governor of Punjab) and Shahbaz Bhatti (the Federal Minister for Minorities) have been assassinated for their opposition to the blasphemy laws.
In August 2012, a 14-year old Christian girl with Down Syndrome, Rimsha Masih was jailed after a Muslim mob beat her on the framed up charge of burning the Quran.
Another Christian woman Afia Bibi languishes in jail as no one dare take up her defence for fear of being killed by jihadi goon squads.
Several sections of Pakistan's Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws.
§ 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object.
§ 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. § 295-B forbids defiling the Quran.
§ 295-C forbids defaming the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Except for § 295-C, the provisions of § 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused's intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine.
§ 298 states: Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
§ 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages.
§ 298-B and § 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytising, or "in any manner whatsoever" outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of § 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine.
Between 1986 and 2007, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with blasphemy offences. Fifty percent of these were non-Muslims, who represent only 3% of the national population.
No judicial execution for blasphemy has ever occurred in Pakistan, but 20 of those charged were subsequently murdered.
This petition demands that the blasphemy law and all its provisions, including all sections of 295, must be repealed and abrogated. In addition, all people imprisoned under this medieval section of the Pakistan Criminal Code must be set free.
Tarek Fatah started this petition with a single signature, and now has 599 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.