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Archive for April, 2011

Source: Guardian

This week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that hijras, (transgender individuals) should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards. The News reported,

The court directed NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) to expedite efforts for issuance of National Identity Cards (NICs) to eunuchs, besides registering them as she-males. The court observed that eunuchs are Pakistani citizens, but they are deprived of various rights, including the right of having NICs.

The BBC quoted Brigadier Ehsan ul-Haq of NADRA who told reporters after the ruling, “Transgenders wanted recognition for their community. Why not reflect them as having a separate identity?”

According to the Guardian’s Declan Walsh last year [also see this great audio slideshow by Walsh], Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been a proponent of hijra rights, warning police “to cease harassment and intimidation.” Prior to this week’s decision, Pakistan’s court also ruled two years ago that this community had the right to refer to themselves as the “third gender.” The shift has caused one leader of the hijra community to comment, “Times are changing. Our community feels good for the first time in 60 years.”

The traditional occupation of the transgender community consists of “begging for alms when bestowing blessings on male babies and at weddings,” noted Nabiha Meher Sheikh in this piece [recommended reading for those who'd like to read more background]. “Most of their songs are about pregnancy and their dances are mostly parodies of pregnant women.” Although many claim to be “professional wedding dancers,” Walsh reported that campaigners say their main sources of income come from begging and prostitution. And despite a degree of cultural acceptance (hijras have been part of this society for centuries, and were courtesans during the Mughal Empire), the transgender community is often persecuted and harassed.

But about two years ago, the government began hiring hijras as tax collectors, going door to door to shame people into paying their taxes. It’s a practice that the Indian government also began in 2006, and transgender individuals would receive 4% of any taxes collected (via the BBC). Sajid Hussein Bhatti, a tax superintendent who gives Riffi, a hijra tax collector, orders every morning, told CNN for a recent report, “Their appearance causes great embarrassment amongst the people.” CNN further noted,

We followed them as they visit a series of electrical appliance shops. The first debtor insists there’s been a mistake and the bill’s been paid. The second is less amenable, so the team threaten to come back 24 hours later, half a dozen strong — and dance in the shop. That just may be enough to get a tax bill settled.

I first read about this tactic last year, in Adam Ellick’s piece for the NY Times, “Tax-Free Living in Pakistan.” He reported, “For many of the TGs [Transgendered people] hired by the Clifton board, tax collecting is their first salaried job, and two of them still work as sex workers…[they] have collected $100,000 in about nine months, 10 times the cost of the program.”

Obviously, Pakistan has an enormous tax issue, with only 1.9 million out of 170 million filing tax returns last year. Some would argue that hiring hijras as tax collectors is novel and a positive step for this community, because it’s engaging them in society and providing them employment. But I have a hard time agreeing with such a notion. If we truly wanted to bring TGs into mainstream society as respected citizens, why give them roles that ultimately exacerbate the stereotypes and stigmas attached to their community? In that sense, should this recent development regarding national identity cards be taken with a grain of salt, seen as a political concession for this tax collection tactic?

Shehzadi, a hijra interviewed by the BBC, told the news agency, “Getting jobs and ID cards is great, but when I die, I know the community will have a party, spend all my money, and then it will be as if Shehzadi never walked on this earth.”

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This past Monday, CHUP posted a contribution by Nabiha Meher Sheikh who argued why she was for the recent burqa ban in France. Below, Sahar Khan, a doctoral student in political science at University of California-Irvine, argues why she is against the ban:

On April 11, 2011, France became the first European country to ban the burqa. If a woman in France is found wearing a burqa or covering her face, she will be fined 150 euros or will have to take special citizenship classes (“How To Be French For Dummies”?). There are certain challenges to enforcing the ban though: it is not clear if women found in violation will be jailed or not. Furthermore, people found to be forcing women to wear a burqa will be fined 30,000 euros and perhaps twice as much if the girl is a minor. All in all only about 2000 women will be affected— a pretty small population. So why are we all talking about it?

Personally, the ban made me dwell on was the concept of citizenship itself. According to Christian Joppke in his book Citizenship and Immigration, mass migration has caused tensions between universal human rights and the concept of citizenship since the end of World War II. According Article 15 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” Yet, states have a right to decline someone nationality if they wish, which sounds reasonable enough when considering that citizenship can be exclusivist and actually quite undemocratic because one is born into citizenship (unless you’re an Arab Bedouin but I digress).

In line with that logic, a state has an obligation to protect its citizens from external and internal threats. In France’s case then, does the state have the right to ban a certain group from dressing as it pleases in the name of protecting its national identity and security? Isn’t this ban a violation of the liberal norms of free speech and expression? The answers to both of these are complex but it should be made clear that there is a fine line between protection and authoritarianism, and France has just stepped to the latter.

France is a unique country and its secularism is dominated by laïcité, a concept from the Enlightenment that aims to force religion out of politics. By banning the burqa, however, France has brought it into politics. I think the ban will actually make France more insecure for two reasons. First, it seems that France is not just intolerant of its religious minority population but is in fact intolerant of all religion. This is problematic because religion is a dominant force in modern politics, just as secularism is. Trying to make one of these disappear is somewhat impossible. Second, this will create bigger challenges for France with respect to immigration. Most immigrants feel isolated, alienated, and hence disloyal. A ban like this will only deepen these feelings, which will have negative consequences in the long run.

The burqa has issues of its own. First, it is not a requirement in Islam. The only requirement is for women to dress modestly, which can be interpreted in numerous ways. Second, the burqa hides one’s identity, which is obviously a security issue. Third, it is an apparent health risk and many women wearing the veil have been diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiencies, (seriously). Fourth, it is certainly used as a tool to suppress women. However, on the state level, Saudi Arabia is the ONLY country that REQUIRES its women to wear it. By banning the veil, France has become the national counterpart to the kingdom, and I am not sure that was a position France wanted to be in.

This ban disappointed me in the same way the minaret ban in Switzerland did. No doubt, numerous Muslim countries are intolerant and openly prejudice against their ethnic and/or religious minorities, prohibiting Hindu temples and Bohri and Ahmadi mosques from being built. Instead of exhibiting tolerance, Switzerland acted just like these countries by banning the minaret in the name of secularism. And now France has done the same. Banning is also not historically the best solution.

I am not brainwashed nor uninformed nor uneducated. I am, however, a critical observer and feel that laws like these do not solve anything but create even more problems.

 The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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Insert Three Cups Pun Here

The below post was first published in Dawn News’ blog this morning and was entitled, “Mortenson’s half-truths”:

Greg Mortenson is a mountaineer-turned-humanitarian, a New York Times bestselling author, and a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

If we are to believe the recent 60 Minutes investigation and Jon Krakaeur’s report Three Cups of Deceit, he is also a liar.

Last Sunday, the news programme released a damning report on Mortenson, claiming that some of his most inspirational stories in his books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools were either exaggerated or completely fabricated. Moreover, a financial statement from the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which Mortenson co-founded in 1996 and is acting executive director, show that only 41% of funds raised actually went towards schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the American Center for Philanthropy, a charity watchdog, CAI claims that $1.7 million was spent on Mortenson’s “book-related expenses,” more than they spent on all of their schools in Pakistan last year.

Since the report aired, a flurry of news reports, opinion pieces, and statements have been released. Mortenson’s long-time critics feel vindicated. His fans are justifiably angry. And there are some who still cling to the possibility that the presented evidence either isn’t true, or doesn’t matter.

Mortenson’s response to the investigation has been vague and frankly, unsatisfying. In a piece for the Express Tribune Monday, he wrote,

 …the story framed by “60 Minutes” — as far as we can tell — paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in Three Cups of Tea, that occurred almost 18 years ago.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle cited another statement, in which he emphasized, “I stand by the information conveyed in my book.”

And yet Mortenson also conceded that one of the disputed events in the book — how he ended up in Korphe, where he built the first of more than 100 schools — was “a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993.”

He also has not addressed the troubling revelation that the 1996 photo of his alleged Taliban kidnappers were, in fact, not Taliban at all. One of the men, Mansur Khan Mahsud, is actually a well-respected research director of the FATA Research Center, an Islamabad-based think tank. Mahsud recently told the Daily Beast, “[Mortenson] just wanted to sell books because by 2006 everyone wanted to know about the Taliban and Waziristan…He thought this was a good chance to cash in.”

You may argue that Mortenson’s half-truths and lies were all part of the storytelling process, that his heart was still in the right place, that his intentions were good. But Mortenson ultimately based his entire narrative on a lie. The reason why American housewives and school children alike were drawn to his inspirational story, why they opened their wallets and gave blindly to “save” schoolgirls in Afghanistan and Pakistan was – at the end of the day – a sham. And if he could lie about the very foundation of his success, we have no choice but to doubt everything.

As the dust settles, there is a desire to point fingers and portion blame. Mortenson and CAI deserve the brunt of the anger, for not only veiling the public from reality, but also for using sentimental literature to garner funds, money that was allegedly misappropriated for personal gain.

We should also use this as an opportunity to look inwards at ourselves, at our ability to get carried away by a charismatic personality and digestible narrative, in which Mortenson was the John Smith in the Pakistani version of Pocahontas. Rather than society questioning whether good intentions truly equaled good aid, we gave him a platform, feeling warm and fuzzy for the part we indirectly played in saving schoolchildren. This thinking is endemic of a larger problem with charity and non-profit giving, in which show ponies and personalities often sweep us off our feet. We forget that we must demand transparency, and that we need to go beyond giving, remembering instead to give well. We need to remember the people – in this case the children – who our money should ultimately be going to. This means supporting institutions and organizations that aren’t built on personality alone, but on community engagement and sustainability.

I never donated to CAI, and I still feel cheated. I can only imagine how Mortenson’s supporters must feel.

Other great op-eds related to the Mortenson debacle:

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Source: Illume Mag

Beginning on April 11, France began enforcing the controversial burqa ban, fining and arresting women who fail to comply and continue to wear the burqa or the niqab – the full face veil. The country is now the first European Union nation to enforce the ban, and the law as well as the corresponding debate have ignited supporters and critics on either side. Below, Nabiha Meher Sheikh, a freelance writer based in Lahore, explains why she supports the ban:

I support the burqa ban. There, I said it. As someone from a Muslim family that banned any sex segregation or dress code four generations ago, this ban is a positive development. Allow me to use my own family’s example to explain why.

My grandmother belonged to an ancient Muslim family, known as the Mian family of Bhagbanpura, who claim they arrived here in the 8th century. They were also known as the Mad Mians due to their eccentricity and the fact that the birth of a baby girl was at times celebrated with more gusto than a boy. The family has been called “matriarchal” because of the overwhelming amount of strong women who cannot be told what to do. It is shocking for those who have never seen a family where women are not secondary to the men, where even inheritance is divided equally and not according to patriarchal norms.

According to sources, the Mians settled in Lahore over a thousand years ago and until today, are all buried in an ancient graveyard behind the Shalimar gardens in Bhagbanpura. I’ve always admired them because they have never been afraid to evolve and adapt. Moreover, unlike relatively recent converts, the Mians never felt the need to “prove” how Muslim they were. They were, and still are, safe and secure in their identity.

However, this wasn’t always the case. The Mians, like most Punjabi families, were once deeply patriarchal. The women were kept in the home, married off very young and were expected to be breeding machines for the clan. They were silent, hidden away, and voiceless. In contrast, the Mian women today aren’t faced with the same pressures of marriage and children. We are educated, empowered, and highly independent. The men in the family do not believe they have the right to control us or tell us what to do.

All this changed because of one simple broken tradition: banning the veil. In my opinion, the veil is a symbol of patriarchy, of male dominance and is based on the principle that women’s God given bodies are not meant to be seen for they will lead to chaos. The presence of women in the public sphere threatens patriarchal symbols and patriarchal norms. The easiest way to oppress us is to lock us away or make us invisible under burqas if we dare invade that space.

Begum Iffat Ara, Nabihas Dadi (paternal grandmother)

My grandmother had as many rights as the men in her family. In the 1940s, she married a man she chose, one who treated her as his equal and not his subordinate. She was also more educated than the vast majority of women in India at the time. She was fierce, strong and independent, riding horses in breeches, sword in hand. She had the freedom to do things that arguably many in burqa do not. They do not get to feel the wind in their hair. They are faceless objects of patriarchy’s triumph over women.

The burqa, in my opinion, is indoctrination and not a choice. Someone who is brainwashed to believe that it is a choice will always maintain that it is. I say this because it’s not an Islamic requirement. As a Muslim feminist, I believe that in order to get ahead, we have to constantly reinterpret for ourselves. The re-emergence of the burqa should be condemned in the loudest possible terms. We should not let anyone take us back to where we become objects to be concealed instead of active citizens. While I know my views may be controversial, I believe that encouraging the burqa drags us back into the past.

France is a secular democracy. The people have spoken, Islamophobic or not, and their message is loud and clear. It is not the “we don’t like your kind” message propagated by those with a persecution complex, but a plea to assimilate and become part of French culture instead of living in isolated bubbles. The world is tired of our persecution complex and I don’t blame them. I have to go through demeaning visa processes in order to prove my innocence thanks to these privileged Muslims, citizens of the first world, who can travel where they please.

Am I saying that Islamophobia doesn’t exist? Of course not. But I can also guarantee that in France, if you act like someone who is receptive to their culture, you will be treated quite well by the vast majority of the population. But if you choose to walk around in a tent, which even to me represents oppression, then you will in effect further perpetuate Islamophobia.

What is the burqa but a symbol of indoctrination? Islamic history is full of strong women who defied the patriarchal norms, but sadly, all this information has been suppressed & hidden from history. By examining Muslims herstory over history, we can clearly see that veiling isn’t an essential practise; it is a choice.

So what is my problem with choice then? I realize it is anti-feminist to judge a woman based on her dress. However, I echo commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown when she said, “Why should society be tolerant of a mark that women are evil temptresses or packages whose sexuality has to be controlled?… There is self-segregation going on and this garment is a symbol of that.” I know I will be judged as “illiberal” but the woman who dons a burqa also looks down on the woman who is “immorally” dressed. She judges me for living in “male” clothes. She thinks, and sometimes says, that I’m destined for hell. Pray tell me why I should respect such a woman? Pray tell me why I should be tolerant of the intolerant?

 The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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U.S.-Pakistan Intelligence Fall-out: Not So Groovy. Baby.

According to news outlets, “Pakistan has demanded that the U.S. steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan.”

Or as Jeremy Scahill (@jeremyscahill) tweeted, “You mean Pakistan tells the U.S. it must sharply reduce the number of times its operatives get caught.”

The demand is another sign of the unfolding fallout after the Raymond Davis debacle, and, as the NY Times noted, it signals “the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies.” Pakistan’s intelligence officials have asked about 335 American personnel – C.I.A. officers and contractors and Special Operations forces – to leave the country, about a 25 to 40 percent reduction in Pakistan’s U.S. presence.

The reductions were reportedly personally demanded by COAS Gen. Kayani, and were articulated during Pakistan’s intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Pasha‘s Monday meetings with CIA director Leon Panetta. According to New York Magazine, “The incident couldn’t have come at a worse time: The U.S. is frustrated at Pakistan’s seeming ineptness at tackling Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region. And Pakistan is distrustful of Washington, believing American officials are only interested in stripping the country of its nuclear arsenal.” Just last week, the White House’s assessment of the U.S. Afghanistan/Pakistan policy was released, painting a grim picture about Pakistan’s counterinsurgency efforts. According to Dawn, “The report alleged that Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, continues to be the operational base of Al Qaeda and its affiliates threatening global peace.”

Pakistan has dismissed the report’s claims, but at least to the outside world, the strain between the two nations is clear. In fact, CNN noted that these aforementioned “strained” relations dominated Monday’s “frank” discussion between Panetta and Pasha, though officials later assured reporters that the meetings had been productive, and that the relationship between the two services “remains on solid footing.”

It seems that the U.S. is at least trying to placate some of Pakistan’s demands, with U.S. Ambassador Munter stating that Washington is now reconsidering its drone program, a comment he made not during his speech, but during the Q&A Monday. While Munter did not note a time line in the review of the drone program, he did say – pretty significantly – “We have habits and tendencies that don’t work for us and get in the way [of its relationship with Pakistan].”

The Ambassador also called for a renewal of ties, noting, “We’ve had some difficult days in the recent past.  But I’m here today to speak of opportunities in the future, not of problems of the past. Those problems have been acute in recent months, symbolized by the case of Raymond Davis.”

For those of you who think that the U.S. would actually halt the drone strikes in Pakistan – think again. As I’ve noted before, the drones are the best worst option to target militants that threaten U.S. interests. So a vague placation about a covert tactic that Pakistan has been very aware of should be taken with a grain of salt.

With intelligence relations, I always wonder how much of what is being said publicly truly reflects what is happening behind closed doors. Because let’s be honest – as much as the U.S. isn’t “happy” with Pakistan’s ability to battle Al Qaeda, Pakistan is, justifiably, pretty pissed off too. Even if Islamabad/GHQ have been complicit in the drone strike program and had knowledge of American personnel in the country, they don’t like being undermined in the eyes of their own population. Incidents like the Raymond Davis case and the March 17th drone strike that targeted a tribal jirga and killed large numbers of civilians and tribal fighters loyal to the Pakistani government in North Waziristan, are examples of that.

And for a report from the White House to claim that Pakistan is still not “doing enough,” despite the sustained deployment of 147,000 Pakistani troops and despite the numbers of Pakistani policemen, soldiers, and civilians that have lost their lives, comes across as callous, a far cry from “mutual respect and mutual understanding.”

After those debacles, our intelligence agency wants to be wooed. Some of the statements we’re seeing in the media or what is  really happening behind closed doors could be examples of that. But will we see any changes in U.S. policy vis-a-vis Pakistan? We’ll see about that.

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AP: A Nation Burning.

Late last year, Aasia Bibi became the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The events that have unfolded since then – the tragic assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, the escalated street protests – highlight not only how sensitive this issue has become, but also how polarized. Many people, particularly minorities, have been persecuted under these laws, and while it would now be unproductive to get rid of the law completely, a proper dialogue and potential reform must occur. Below, Sahar Khan, a doctoral student in political science at University of California-Irvine, delves into a discussion on the law and how it’s been misused over the years:

According to the 2010 Freedom House Policing Belief on Pakistan, 695 people have been charged with blasphemy from 1986 till April 2006, while Dawn reported that 964 people have been charged with blasphemy out of the 5000 cases that have been registered from 1984 to 2004. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, that documents blasphemy cases, reports that majority of the cases involve Muslims, followed by Ahmadis. Yet, according to legal scholars, from 1960–2007, 41 cases have fallen under Section 295-C. Out of these, the religious profile was as follows: Ahmadis: 15; Christians: 5; Muslims: 20. This indicates that a little less than 50 percent of the cases involved Muslim violators of the law but when considering the minute size of the Ahmadi and Christian communities, the 15 and 5 cases represent a huge proportion.

Religious minorities have called on the judiciary to protect their constitutional rights—rights that they have been stripped off—but have mostly failed. In 1985, in Mujibur Rahman v. Government of Pakistan, the Federal Shariat Court upheld the constitutionality and validity of Ordinance XX [barring Ahmadis from associating themselves with Islam] and stated that the Parliament had acted wholly within its authority when declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslim.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan made a similar decision in Zaheeruddin v. State, and stated that restricting the religious practices of Ahmadis was constitutional for two reasons: 1) by declaring themselves as Muslims and simultaneously not believing Mohammad to be the last prophet essentially means they are committing fraud and are misrepresenting themselves while aggravating the majority Sunni population, and 2) by publically using Islamic epithets as non-Muslims, they would potentially be violating company and trademark laws, and so they should try to “coin their own epithets.” By doing so, the Supreme Court created a legal parallel between trade and religion despite obvious differences between the two. The decision was not only self-serving and dishonest but showed the judiciary surrendering before the ascendant forces of religious reaction and abdicating judicial protection of religious minorities.

In addition to judicial reluctance to overturn the laws, they suffer from four major design flaws. First, they are designed to only protect Islam and no other religion, which is clearly discriminatory. There have been calls to increase the scope of Section 295-C to include other prophets but theoretically it would only protect Abrahamic religions, and not others like Buddhism or Hinduism. Realistically, it is more likely to increase the potential for further persecution of minorities. Second, the requirement of a deliberate or malicious intent is missing from Section 295-C and except for a few exceptions in which the courts say that intention is absent and have granted bail, they mostly remain silent, which basically results in the laws being interpreted like strict liability offenses. Also, the lack of specificity of Section 295-C, and the explicit targeting of Ahmadis in Section 298-C makes their scope and applicability virtually limitless. Third, there are no exceptions for any person who is charged with blasphemy. Hence, the mentally ill and imbalanced can be charged and jailed for years.

In 1996, Zaibunnisa, a woman declared mentally ill, was charged and jailed for 14 years after being wrongly charged with blasphemy. Cases like these highlight the abuse that follows from a lack of intent requirement but also the insensitivity of the courts—especially the lower courts that deal with these cases more—regarding sick individuals. And finally, even though Section 295-C calls for punishment by death, hard evidence is not required to successfully indict someone. This is mainly due to the fact that lawyers and judges—and on occasion even their families— who demand hard evidence are often harassed, threatened, and even killed.

The laws also violate numerous international conventions. First, they are in conflict with Articles 7 (on equality before the law and protection against discrimination), 18 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), and 19 (freedom of expression) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is sad and ironic, considering Pakistan was a staunch advocate of UDHR during its early years and is a signatory. Second, even though Pakistan is not a signatory, it is important to note that the laws violate Articles 18, 19, 20, and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) because Pakistani jurists consider the ICCPR as an affirmed international norm that Pakistan should follow and have used it in judicial opinions. Third, they violate Articles 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 of the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief. Fourth, they violate Articles 2 and 4 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. And finally, the death penalty for blasphemy violates the first clause of the UN Economic and Social Council that has provided safeguards for the rights of those facing capital punishment and states that: “capital punishment may be imposed only for the most serious crimes, it being understood that their scope should not go beyond intentional crimes, with lethal or other extremely grave consequences.” Pakistan is one of the few remaining countries to retain it along with China, Iran, and the United States.

Judicial reform is not only important but necessary. The laws are usually misused at the lower court level because the local judges fear reprisal. While some decisions have gotten overturned at the appeals level, majority of the cases do not get reported, and of those that do, very few actually make it to the appeals stage. Furthermore, even if they do and the accused are acquitted, religious mobs drive them out of their homes and/or villages and even on occasion the country itself. As more are charged under the blasphemy laws, the clearer it becomes that the judiciary has actually endorsed these laws and increased their legitimacy. Parliament also needs to make amends and reform or eliminate the laws. Strong and vocal voices of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti unfortunately have been silenced. But instead of being afraid, legislators should use their assassinations as a calling for reform that cannot wait any longer. Sherry Rahman is such a voice—others should and must join her in her quest to reform or even eliminate the laws. Reforming or eliminating discriminatory laws will not magically reduce the violence within Pakistan but it will eliminate a tool that has been used too often to target minorities.

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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