Pakistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world with regard to freedom of expression, including and especially religious freedom. Blasphemy (i.e. insults) against religion in general can result in imprisonment, while blasphemy against Islam carries the much harsher punishment of death. Both in terms of the aggressiveness with which the Islamic-conservative government prosecutes such cases, as well as the harshness of punishment, Pakistan remains one of the worst places on the planet to speak out against religion or religious fundamentalism.

History of Blasphemy & Apostasy Laws

The lands that today encompass Pakistan began to undergo the process of Islamization in the early eighth century, but the process of the religious conversion of most of its populace took several centuries. In the succeeding centuries, the region passed through the hands of multiple Islamic empires and sultanates, including the Mughal Empire, before ultimately being colonized by the British as part of British India.

Pakistan's current penal code has its ultimate source in the penal code of British India, out of which the modern independent states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh splintered. This penal code had a general blasphemy provision against insulting religious beliefs, intended as a means of facilitating greater religious harmony among the diverse population of the British colony. This law remains on the books today, as it does in the other nations as well.

However, Pakistan is unique in that, after independence (which came in 1947), in keeping with the explicitly religious character of the new "Islamic Republic," the penal code was amended with provisions to punish blasphemy against Islam specifically. These provisions prohibit insults to both the Islamic faith and to the Qur'an, and, unlike the general blasphemy law which carries the punishment of imprisonment, these carry the death penalty. The current constitution, adopted in 1973, gives Islam as the state religion and stipulates that legislation may not contravene the principles of Islamic law.

Cases of Persecution in Pakistan
Muhammad Waris, under 30 years old, accused of desecrating Qur'an and lynched
Factory superintendent Priyantha Kumara lynched over blasphemy accusations
"Mentally unstable" Mushtaq Ahmed lynched by mob for burning Qur'an
Man arrested and jailed for "joining" WhatsApp group that contained "blasphemous" material
Imran Rehman arrested for WhatsApp blasphemy, subject to torture in detention
Hindu Ashok Kumar narrowly escapes lynch mob after blasphemy accusation, arrested
Pakistani Christian Shehzad Masih arrested for blasphemy, later sentenced to death
Unnamed woman arrested on blasphemy charge
Unnamed woman in Karachi arrested on blasphemy charges
Christian Babar Masih arrested and charged with blasphemy
23-year-old arrested for blasphemy
Eight-year-old boy arrested for blasphemy
Pakistani Christian pastor Raja Waris arrested on accusations of blasphemy
Patras Masih imprisoned for Facebook blasphemy; cousin Sajid commanded to rape Patras, attempts suicide instead
Illiterate Pakistani Christian couple sentenced to death for doctored blasphemous texts
Blasphemy lawyer Saif ul Malook receives death threats
65-year-old man arrested for blasphemy
Illiterate Pakistani child arrested and attacked after being accused of writing on mosque walls
Teacher Safoora Bibi murdered over blasphemy dream
Shia Wasim Abbas sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan
Nautan Lal, Hindu teacher, sentenced to life for blasphemy in Pakistan
Mohamed Imran acquitted of blasphemy charge, tracked and murdered
Christian teenager Nabeel Chohan arrested for liking, sharing blasphemous Facebook post
Man accused of blaspheming "publicly in a hotel," arrested
26-year-old Aneeqa Ateeq sentenced to death for online blasphemy
Qaiser Zada assaulted and arrested for blasphemy
Brothers Asif and Abdullah Fareed arrested for blasphemy
Pakistani blasphemy suspect shot by own brother
Ibtisam Mustafa fined, sentenced to life imprisonment for blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad
Teacher Faraz Ahmed arrested for blasphemy after locals demonstrate
Actress Veena Malik and others get 26 years in prison for blasphemy
80-year-old optician Abdul Shakoor given eight years and large fine for selling Ahmadiyya books
Pastor Adnan Prince tortured, imprisoned for blasphemy after annotating controversial book
Professor Anwaar Ahmed given 10-year sentence for criticizing popular depictions of Heaven
Anwar Kenneth sentenced to death, fined for claiming to be reincarnation of Jesus
Anwar Masih arrested for blasphemy on accusations from wife and daughter
Anwar Masih spends year in prison for asking neighbor why he converted to Islam and grew a beard
Ashfaq Masih held in prison for blasphemy upon stating disbelief in prophethood of Muhammad
Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death
Pakistani Christian Asif Pervaiz sentenced to death for blasphemous text messages
Asif Stephen, 16, nearly killed by mob, forced to confession, imprisoned for blasphemy
Ahmadi Bushra Bibi and granddaughters killed in home fire set by angry mob
Christian David Masih held in prison for blasphemy after pages of Qur'an found in drain
Eighth-grader Faryal Bhatti accused of blasphemy, beaten for misspelling word
Three sisters assassinate Fazal Abbas for blasphemy committed 13 years earlier
Pakistani Christian organizer George Naz accused of blasphemy, forced into exile
Humayun Faisal brutalized by mob, held in prison for blasphemy despite mental disability
Ahmadiyya press raided for blasphemy, employees beat, arrested, fined, materials seized
Imran Masih brutalized by mob along with brother Naveed Danish, given life sentence for blasphemy
Anjum Sindhu, Jaffar Ali, and Javed Naz sentenced to death for blasphemy
University lecturer Junaid Hafeez sentenced to death, lawyer murdered
Pastor Karma Patras arrested, family death threatened for saying animal sacrifice is unnecessary
English professor Khalid Hameed stabbed to death for "anti-Islam" remarks
Maryam Lal and Newsh Urooj charged with blasphemy for removing religious sticker while cleaning
University student Mashal Khan beaten, shot, and killed, murder shared online
Shahzad and pregnant wife Shama Masih brutalized by mob, burnt alive in brick kiln for blasphemy
72-year-old British citizen Masud Ahmad imprisoned after being framed for blasphemy
British citizen Mohammad Asghar sentenced to death for blasphemy, shot by prison guard
Imam Mohammad Shafi and son Mohammad Aslam given life in prison, fined for disposing of poster
Mubasher, Ghulam, and Ehsan Ahmad sentenced to death; Khalil Ahmad killed for removing posters
Muhammad Ishaq sentenced to life in prison for burning pages of the Qur'an
Muhammad Javed framed by former friend for blasphemy, arrested
Reformist Islamic scholar Shakil Auj assassinated, student Amna Afreen shot
Muhammad Samiullah sent to juvenile detention for writing blasphemous comments on exam
Pakistani Christian Nadeem James accused of blasphemy on death row
Nadeem Samson imprisoned after likely-false blasphemy accusation and physically coerced confession
School principal Naima Wahib Habil given two years in prison with labor for blasphemy
Ahmadi imam Nasir Ahmad Sultani sentenced to death for blasphemous YouTube sermons
Qaisar and Amoon Ayub sentenced to death after exile and imprisonment for online blasphemy
Pakistani Christian Qamar David arrested for blasphemous texts, tortured, dies in prison
Ahmadi Ramzan Bibi assaulted, imprisoned for blasphemy after donating to non-Ahmadi mosque
VP of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance of Pakistan Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman sentenced to death
Blasphemy defense lawyer Rashid Rehman assassinated in office, two colleagues shot
14-year-old Rimsha Masih falsely accused of blasphemy and arrested
Dr. Tahir Ahmad Mahmood killed, three family members shot at home for "insulting Islam"
Bank manager Malik Imran Hanif shot dead, killer claims blasphemy as motivation
Rizwan Haider given 13 years in prison, fined for "religiously offensive" post
Literature professor Sajid Soomro arrested on blasphemy charges for religion-critical writings
Saleem Masih arrested for blasphemy after blasphemy accusation from in-law
Punjab governor and critic of blasphemy laws Salman Taseer murdered by bodyguard
Yaqoob Shah arrested for "comments against the holy Prophet" after hundreds demonstrate
Muhammad Waqas, acquitted of blasphemy, "hacked to death" by Pakistani policeman
Nurse Tabitha Nazir Gill brutalized by mob, charged on blasphemy accusation
Sawan Masih sentenced to death for blasphemy, fined; hometown looted and torched
Taliban kill sole Christian cabinet member Shahbaz Bhatti for criticizing blasphemy laws
Hikmat Khan receives life imprisonment for blasphemy
Shafique arrested on blasphemy charges for tying shoe to flag with religious symbol
Muhammad Ishaq defends Shahbaz Masih, both imprisoned when accused of blasphemy by assailants
British-trained physician Younus Shaikh sentenced to death, held in solitary confinement for blasphemy
Mentally disabled Stephen Masih brutalized, imprisoned for blasphemy after argument with neighbor
Teenagers Sunny Mushtaq and Noman Asghar imprisoned for receiving blasphemous texts
U.S. citizen Tahir Naseem lured to Pakistan, charged with blasphemy, and murdered
Minority Shia Taimoor Raza sentenced to death for blasphemous Facebook comments
Tufail Naqvi axed to death by police officer while in custody for blasphemy
Wajih-ul-Hassan sentenced to death for blasphemy, tortured, imprisoned for 17 years
Mystic Yousuf Ali shot dead in prison after receiving death sentence for blasphemy
Yaqoob Bashir Masih threatened with immolation, imprisoned for life on blasphemy accusation
Pastor Zafar Bhatti tortured, given life sentence for fabricated blasphemous texts
Zahira and mother beat and paraded on donkeys after blasphemy accusation
Brothers arrested on blasphemy charges; mob attacks police station
Muhammad Rafiq sentenced to death, fined for blasphemously-inscribed wooden slab