In this Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010 photo, supporters of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance hold a demonstration against blasphemy laws in Lahore, Pakistan. A court sentenced Mohammad Zulfiqar, 50, to death on blasphemy charges in eastern Pakistan, a government prosecutor said Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Zulfiqar was mentally ill and should not have been tried on the charges, said Kashif Bokhari, who was appointed by the government to plead the case because no one turned up to defend the accused. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary) The Hanifi School, one of the four major schools of Sunni Islamic legal reasoning, is the most influential in our Parliament and the Federal Shariat Court. Advocate Ismael Qureshi quoted a scholar of the same school when advocating to make the punishment for blasphemy unpardonable. A textual analysis reveals the assertion to making blasphemy unpardonable was based on misinterpretation. Ismael Qureshi, who now resides in the U.S., said mistakes were made in the judicial interpretation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. I don’t endorse blasphemy, but the blasphemy law of Pakistan violates human dignity. We cannot put a man to death for ill-speech. We may imprison him after a fair trial but not put him to death. That, too, for speech which is not necessarily deliberate. A mentally ill person, a naive child or an Ahmedi preaching his religion can get hanged because of the 295-C section of Pakistan’s Penal Code that prohibit use of derogatory remarks toward Prophet Muhammad. 295-C does not care whether the remarks were intentional. But is there a need for the law? In order to measure the feasibility of a law, one ought to see the difference the law makes. The success of a gun control policy would be evaluated by the decrease in gun violence. Applying the same methodology to blasphemy law, we would evaluate the law’s success or need by the decrease it brings in religious persecution, and the liberty it gives to people to practice their religion. The aforementioned instrument to gauge blasphemy law is odd given that Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country. Islam hasn’t faced a threat, and there hasn’t been any movement to defame it. So, a legitimate reason for the imposition of Pakistan’s blasphemy law is absent. Even before the law was implemented, no Muslim or non-Muslim dared to defame Islam. So why was the law implemented? Perhaps Pakistan faced an ostensible threat in a world encompassed in Western culture and democracy. And the same was taken advantage of by Bhutto and Zia, each trying to win over clerics and traditionalists when faced with waning popularity in the country. And hence, the blasphemy law was a by-product of majoritarian politics. Zia and Bhutto used it for their personal gain, and Imran Khan isn’t different. The law lacks safeguards. It does not incorporate mens rea or intent. For instance, is it fair to punish a person who accidentally kills someone by skipping a red light the same as someone who willfully kills someone by shooting them? No, it isn’t. They both should be punished, but in separate ways. Why does intent matter in the blasphemy law? Ghulam Abbas, a mentally unstable homeless man killed because he burnt pages of the Quran, is why intent matters. Ghulam Abbas was held at Chanigot Police Station near Bahawalpur in Punjab, accused by local residents of burning a copy of the Quran. A local police chief stated Ghulam Abbas “was not aware of even the location of his residence.” A mob of hundreds gathered and surrounded the police station, threatening to kill Ghulam Abbas. The police refused to hand him over, but the crowd broke in and seized hin, dragging him to the location where he allegedly desecrated the Quran. He was beaten to death before his body was set on fire. A counter-narrative to the of abuse of blasphemy law is that the law is not wrong, but its abuse is. But statistics show the passing of 295-C has led to a dramatic and ruthless surge in extra-judicial killings. That’s because mobs know the law assumes guilt. Because the law is vague, does not require intent and does not lay down exceptions, it is regulated on the discretion of our clerics. The law is largely manipulated for people’s own advantage. For instance, Catherine Shaheen, a Christian teacher, was accused of blasphemy by her employer after she complained about being unpaid. She’s now in hiding for 23 years. Amnesty International’s report “As Good as Dead: The Impact of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan” lays out the abuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan: Judges act like aggrieved parties. Defense lawyers are harassed by Khatm-e-Nabbuwat Lawyers Forum whose mission is to ensure anyone charged with insulting Islam is executed. Prosecutors accuse the defense lawyers of being non-Muslim, and the police expedite the investigation assuming guilt by accusation. Asia Bibi’s case, in which she was accused of blasphemy after getting into an argument with Muslim women, was filled with irregularities and loopholes, but she was still sentenced to death by hanging. How many others will need to be hanged for us to understand that something needs to change?