Murder in the Name of Allah: Asia Bibi and Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law

The Pakistani Supreme Court’s release of Asia Naureen, a mother of five from Pakistan’s shrinking Christian community who was imprisoned nine years ago on trumped-up blasphemy charges, has riled up the religious right and spiralled into scorching new waves of violence. The Supreme Court, however, had no qualms with mandatory death sentences for insults against the Prophet.

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Mango Scented Sovereignty: Pakistan’s Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and Baba-justice

Politicization of the judiciary is a global trend. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is a particularly worrying example. With an ad-campaign, the Court is currently collecting donations for an ambitious dam project to resolve Pakistan’s looming water crises. Chief Justice Saqib Nisar would certainly prefer, as he convincingly repeats, a more pliant courtly existence. But the catastrophic shortcomings of the executive and legislature force him to take on big infrastructure projects – the failures have also pushed him to tackle school curriculums, fees for private medical school, pension of bank employees, random quality-checks in hospitals, surprise inspections of lower courts and ordering the arrest of a high ranking police officer who shared indecent images of his estranged wife on Facebook.

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FATA’s fate in Pakistan 

On May 25th 2018, Pakistan’s senate passed a constitutional amendment that merges the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – a patch of mountainous land snaking along parts of the Afghan border – with Khyber Pakhtun Khwa, a province that sandwiches it. This means that for the first time the constitution’s jurisdiction stretches all the way to the frontier region. In popular culture FATA mostly pops up as a lawless abode where thugs and criminals hide to avoid detention.

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Pakistan’s Reluctant Constitutionalism

On 20 April 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in one of the greatest cases in its turbulent history: the impeachment of the prime minister for involvements in shady financial dealings that bubbled up after the Panama Papers. Nothing happened; the court only showed Nawaz Sharif the yellow card. But while Pakistan narrowly missed her constitutional moment by a single judge’s vote, the court’s ruling displayed tremendous democratic maturity.

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