Pakistan's blasphemy law is a licence to kill with impunity

Christian couple Shama and Shahzad Masih were burned alive in a brick kiln because of a blasphemy accusation against them.REUTERS/Jahangir Khan

The murder of Christian couple Shama and Shahzad Masih because of a blasphemy accusation against them came as the world was already condemning Asia Bibi's death sentence.

It may be seen as just another incident by the Pakistani government, but it cannot be dismissed so easily by the rest of the world - it raised the alarm and levels of aprehension are high.

While the damage to the country's image cannot be undone, but further damage can be avoided if the government is seen to be taking the matter seriously.

This incident has not just exposed Pakistan's treatment of its non-Muslim citizens, but also the prevailing hatred against them. Extremism and hate of religious minorities, especially Christians, has permeated Pakistani society and is devouring it from the inside.

The Pakistani government, Ulemas, politicians, law enforcement agencies and judiciary are all equally responsible for what happed to the Christian couple. All the condemnation, statements by the Prime Minister that there will be no mercy shown to the killers, all the fatwas and all the compensation made by the Punjab Chief Minister, are futile if lessons are not learned, and if there is still no will to treat the causes.

There is a history of such attacks against Christians in Pakistan. If the powers that be so desired, they could put an end to them. But I am not very hopeful that they will.

It is being suggested that had the perpetrators of previous incidents been punished, this incident could have been avoided. Instead, the government's inaction and silence is encouraging people to take the law into their own hands.

Mob justice and vigilante killing are becoming dangerously popular. A large number of Ulemas have demanded punishment for those responsible, but this alone will not prevent the growing hate against Christians.

Christianity is still largest religion in the world and the world is concerned about Christians in Pakistan, but it is not just the Christians, all those who believe in humanity and equality regardless of religion and race sympathise with them.

We shouldn't forget the role of Christians in the making of Pakistan for services in the fields of education and medicine. There was time when almost 60 per cent of the population studied at Christian schools and colleges.

This is the time to revisit our thoughts and treatment towards Pakistani minorities. Mere statements of condemnation won't work anymore.

In today's world where religion is considered a personal matter and a basic human right, and religious freedom is protected and guaranteed, such atrocious acts of killing in the name of religion are beyond imagination in a civilized world, and yet they regularly happen to Christians.

The continuous misuse of blasphemy law, killing in the name of religion, and treatment of religious minorities is very grave, and Pakistan may have to face the consequences if the situation persists.

General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto both tried to bring changes to the blasphemy law but failed. I strongly believe that present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can and should do this, if not for the minorities or the world, but for Pakistan itself.

Nasir Saeed is the co-ordinator for CLAAS-UK.