With the sudden fury of a flash storm, images of an angry mob lynching a young man to death at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan, broke across the news cycle and social media platforms to chilling effect April 13. Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student at the institute, had been attacked after a series of accusations that he had posted blasphemous content online following an argument with a group of fellow students. Whether he had done so or not was irrelevant — the insinuation of wrongdoing was enough.
From the moment the allegations were made he was as good as dead. Everything that took place afterward was a brutal formality in a country long driven by a mindset that allows people to kill with impunity whenever they perceive their religious sentiments have been offended. And so it proved in this case also.
The savagery of the assault was captured in chaotic video footage taken on mobile phones, which showed the crowd shouting “Allahu Akbar” and stomping on Khan’s lifeless body — the final rites of a slaughter in which the victim was stripped naked, clubbed, beaten and shot....
Since then, it has emerged that there is no evidence Khan committed any blasphemy at all. According to some claims, anger against the student might have been whipped up by the university itself after his comments on a television interview about how the institute was being run. It could be that Khan’s only crime was to expose the failings of a few university officials rather than abuse the prophet of Islam.The writer goes on to note that the problem is deeply embedded in the culture:
Debate on the subject is as good as dead, and those who might choose to enter this Sisyphean undertaking are at risk of being killed themselves. Unsurprisingly, no leading lawmakers or public figures dare comment for fear of the assassin’s bullet.I think this would have to count as within the bottom few countries on the planet that I would chose to visit. (Perhaps we can exclude certain virtually lawless Horn of Africa states - I'm not sure you can even treat them as serious tourist destinations - although, I see now, that a company will take you to Mogadishu.)
Moreover, for all the incalculable grief the blasphemy laws continue to cause, there is a great deal of support for the legislation among average Pakistanis, as if the loss of life is a reasonable price to pay to uphold the sacred.
Moves to revise the laws have been rebuffed by public outcry and street protests, forcing the hand of the administration. When Salman Taseer was murdered, his killer Mumtaz Qadri was hailed as a “ghazi,” a warrior, and over 100,000 people attended Qadri’s funeral after he was executed for the crime.
Actually, if you want some mild amusement, you can read the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation website, which looks stylistically like it was last updated around 2000. And some of the information seems about as old. For example, in customs information:
Tourists are allowed to bring in following items without duty;
Personal clothing, hand bags travel goods and toiletries;
medals trophies or prizes;
jewelry not exceeding Rs.1000/-;
01 watch and 01 travelling clock;
spectacles and physical aid;
01 cigarette lighter and 02 fountain pens;
01 pen-knife and similar items of personal use;
01 electric iron and 01 electric shaver for men or 01 hair dryer for female tourist;
01 still camera and 10 rolls of film;
01 sub-standard cinematography camera with projector and two rolls of films;Yes, you don't want the country flooded with illegal foundation pen imports, rolls of camera film, and your cinematography camera needs to be "sub-standard"?
01 pair of binoculars;
01 portable musical instrument;
01 portable sound recording apparatus;
01 portable typewriter;
01 invalid chair in use;