Despite international criticism, it appears unlikely that Pakistan will amend or repeal its controversial blasphemy laws. The laws impose severe penalties, including the possibility of a death sentence, on those found guilty of insulting Islam. In 2010, Christian Asia Bibi became the first person to receive a death sentence under these laws, for her alleged blasphemy of the prophet Muhammad. Asia Bibi remains in prison while her sentence is under appeal.
Christians, who compose less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s population of 150 million, have long complained about the blasphemy laws. They say the laws provide no protection to members of religious minority groups who are accused by Muslims of violations such as tearing a page from the Quran. Such accusations are commonly used to settle scores between feuding neighbors. The accused have little hope of defending themselves because the charge of blasphemy by a Muslim usually serves as sufficient evidence of the crime.
Former President Musharraf tried to reform the law in 2000, but he dropped the issue after Islamic religious parties protested the move. In 2007, Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed promised that the law would be changed after that year’s general election, but they remain in place today.