Study of the evolution of legislation on offences relating to religion in British India and their implications in contemporary Pakistan
Nazir, Farhana Anthony
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The offence of blasphemy and its implications is one of the critical issues in Pakistan today. This research examines the historical setting and gradual amendment of blasphemy laws and their impact on religious communities in Pakistan. The law of blasphemy belongs to two historical periods. First, the era when the country was under military rule by the British during the colonial period: they originally framed Chapter XV of Offences Relating to Religion of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1860. Secondly, its application in an independent subcontinent gradually moved from its original intention in Pakistan after 1947. In 1980s Pakistan, both the intentions of this law and its penalties were significantly altered, becoming the law which people now known as the law of blasphemy. Since the law was amended, it has made people in all religious communities, particularly minorities, critically vulnerable to malicious or unfounded accusation and has been interpreted and applied to varying effects. This historical review shows how Pakistan, though claiming to be secular and to protect all religions and communities, has actually become an exclusively Islamic country. Amending Chapter XV of Offences Relating to Religion was one of the important steps to Islamise Pakistan. This research considers a range of legal, political and constitutional questions concerning the law of blasphemy and religious communities both in pre and post-colonial periods, exploring how the law and religious communities have been and are affected by politics and legislation. In so doing, it will appraise politically significant religious laws, values and activities.