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Pakistan Independence Day – not really

The founder of Pakistan, which today celebrates Independence Day, believed in the separation of mosque and state. He would not recognize his country now. Blasphemy laws silence religious expression. On a visit, I was often reminded to lower my voice 'lest the servants hear you.'

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The retreat of tolerance in Pakistan has global ramifications. The country plays a prominent  role in the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, the 57 member-state organization speaking for the Muslim majority world. Pakistan leads the group’s efforts to broaden the application of abusive blasphemy laws across the world, efforts that remain, to date, largely uncontested.

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Instead of holding Pakistan accountable, the world has lauded her: Pakistan sits on UN human rights panels – including the United Nations Human Rights Council (from 2006 to 2011). The US boycotted the council in the previous administration, but American drones and billions in aid simply fuel Islamist ideologies. 

In Pakistan, what the law has destroyed, the law must rebuild. Just as lawmakers have authored Pakistan’s demise, so too, only lawmakers can write prescriptions for its resurrection.

Last year, a leading Christian lawmaker, Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for his attempts to rewrite the archaic blasphemy laws. His fate followed that of Gov. Salman Taseer, who was assassinated months earlier for calling for a repeal of the same laws.

Following through on their work requires moral courage. The next 65 years depend on it.

Qanta A. Ahmed is the author of In the Land of Invisible Women,” detailing her life in Saudi Arabia. She is associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and honorary professor at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. Follow Dr. Ahmed on Facebook, Twitter (@MissDiagnosis), and her Huffington Post blog.


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