Pakistan has codified some of the world's most draconian anti-blasphemy laws, which can carry a life sentence or the death penalty. While there have been no official executions for blasphemy, extremists have frequently murdered the accused before, during, or after adjudication, even after an acquittal. A vastly disproportionate number of cases involve the Ahmadi and Christian minorities, who are particularly vulnerable since, in blasphemy cases, their testimonies count for less than that of Muslims. Mobs, whipped into hysteria by blasphemy accusations broadcast from mosques, have assaulted, typically with impunity, the accused, their families, and their coreligionists. attacking houses of worship, homes, and businesses, and destroying entire villages. In Punjab in 2009, after an unsubstantiated accusation that a Qur’an had been desecrated, at least seven Christians were burned alive and over 50 houses torched. Credible reports indicated that extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda were involved. Muslim reformers are also targeted and silenced. Author Younus Shaikh was sentenced to life in prison for “deviating from the teachings of the Quran” by criticizing rajam – stoning for adultery. While officials, such as Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, have called for rescinding the blasphemy laws, public opinion and entrenched extremists prevent them from acting.
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