The blasphemy law, which is included in several sections of Pakistan's penal code was widely used and made harsher during the 1980s, under the regime of the late General Ziaul Haq. Over the last decade, its misuse has been widespread, most often as a means to settle petty scores. Muslims and non-Muslims have both suffered as a result. Dozens remain jailed, some have been killed in prison and others have found that even after acquittal by higher courts they are unable to live safely in the country. More dangerous still is the mindset created by this law with mob killings becoming a reality. Only months ago, a Hindu factory worker accused of uttering blasphemous words was killed by fellow workers, allegedly watched by police who failed to act.
Efforts made to introduce safeguards within the blasphemy law, including a 2004 alteration requiring investigation by a senior police official of all such cases have proved largely ineffective. The misuse of the law has been criticized by international and local rights organizations. It was time the blasphemy law was amended to offer adequate safeguards to victims and steps put in place to prevent the blatant misuse of the provision that takes places today and which only serves to further increase the prevailing culture of intolerance and bigotry.