Blasphemy and the State in Pakistan

Layal Mohammad's picture
June 3, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Government and Public Service, Islamic History / Studies, Political Science, Public Policy, Religious Studies and Theology


Part of DIALOGUES 2019: a thought-provoking series of seminars on governance in Muslim contexts

Blasphemy is one of the most contentious issues in contemporary Pakistan. Founded as a safe homeland for Muslims, the country has wrestled with the role of Islam in the state since its inception. While the overwhelming majority of the population are Muslim, they are far from homogenous in sectarian affiliation or adherence to particular doctrinal positions within Islam. Prior to the Islamisation programme under Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, the laws on blasphemy were largely inherited from colonial era regulations that focussed on protecting religious property. Zia’s regime introduced the idea that insult to core ideas of Islam might also legitimately be regulated by the state. The resulting increase in accusations and prosecutions of blasphemy cases has exacerbated divisions in the country and exposed minority communities to serious risk of prosecution. Arguably, rather than control blasphemy, state legislation has created a mechanism for harassment. This has hit minority communities, especially non-Muslims, particularly hard, as the recent high profile Asia Bibi case illustrates so dramatically.

Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash is a historian of Modern South Asia. His current research interests are in the emergence of Pakistan as a post-colonial state, with broader interests in decolonisation, modern state formation, formation of identities, and the emergence of ethnic and identity based conflicts. His DPhil thesis was on the accession and integration of the princely states in Pakistan, which has been published by Oxford University Press as A Princely Affair: Accession and Integration of Princely States in Pakistan, 1947–55. He is currently working on a monograph on the imagination of Pakistan as a country after its creation, using the debates of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (1947–56) as the basic primary material. Dr Bangash is also working towards a history of Forman Christian College, Lahore. He has published in South Asia Research and the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, and has written articles for two edited volumes. He also regularly writes for The News, The Express Tribune and other publications. In 2018, he was a British Academy Visiting Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, and presently is the 2019 Chevening Fellow at the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies.

This event is organised by AKU-ISMC's Governance Programme. The Governance Programme’s annual workshops and conferences on a range of themes explore how Muslim societies develop political systems that promote public welfare, achieve popular legitimacy and recognise minority rights in a time marked by heated debates over tradition, religion and modernity.

Time and Venue
Monday 3 June 2019, 17.30-19.00
Room 220, 2nd floor,
Aga Khan Centre,
10 Handyside Street,
London N1C 4DN

This event is free but booking is essential. Book as soon as possible.

Contact Info: 

Layal Mohammad

Coordinator, Marketing, Communications and Professional Programmes

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

The Aga Khan University (International)

Aga Khan Centre, 10 Handyside Street, London N1C 4DN


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