Pakistan's Infamous blasphemy law

One of the many issues Pakistani is grappling with is the very poignant and grave issue of the abuse of women's rights and more recently, the rights of minorities in light of the Blasphemy Law. These issues get media attention only when something heinous occurs such as the burning of women by her in-laws, or honor killing, or in the case of minorities, the killing of a government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic Pakistani.

Most Christians in Pakistan - about 1.5% of the population - say that there is freedom to practice their religion but a sense of security and safety is missing.

"Pakistan will not have real progress or justice until the institution of democracy is stabilized, " said a Catholic clergyman, whose name is withheld for reasons of safety. "The bottle neck in the progress of democracy is the military and then the feudals," he maintained. "Corruption is at its peak in Pakistan and everything has a 'price.'"

The Muslim clerics have spread fear and anti-Americanism but the weak Pakistani government doesn't do much to protect its citizenry as was evident in the last two high profile murders of the Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who spoke against the Blasphemy Law and were both from the province of Punjab.

In the recent years, Talibanization of Southern Punjab has spiked. This is evident from the recent attacks on Christians and contestants of the Blasphemy Law. The archaic Blasphemy Law was passed down from the British who asserted that "nobody should blaspheme against anyone" to keep peace and respect amongst the Hindus and Muslims. Pakistan has narrowed it and one of its victims has been the Ahmediya sect, declared non-Muslim. Maximum sentencing under the law can be life, death being the worst-case scenario.

Pakistan is at such a crucial crossroads, if debate is not opened up about the security and freedoms of minorities, there will be no democracy and no secular Pakistan. These laws go against the essential teachings of the Quran and the Prophet of Islam. Prophet of Islam, PBHU, advocated co-existence with other religions and urged Muslims to practice it. The first person to give shelter to the Prophet from the hatred of the Meccans was a Christian King of Abyssinia, King Najashi. Not only have the radicals hijacked Islam, they have also forgotten the teachings of the Prophet of Islam.

As Americans, we have the freedoms most people can only dream about. As American Pakistanis, we must encourage debate and open dialogue about these issues and speak up for our oppressed minorities in Pakistan.