Revenge, Politics and Blasphemy in Pakistan

Adeel Hussain

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book uncovers the hidden stories behind Pakistan's legal fixation with blasphemy--tales of revenge, political scheming, and sovereign betrayal. It opens in nineteenth-century colonial Punjab and traces blasphemy killings and their legal afterlives to the present, linking their emergence to polemic encounters between Hindu and Muslim revivalist sects, namely the Arya Samaj and the Ahmadiyya. It offers the arresting backstories to the assassinations of Pandit Lekh Ram, a leading Hindu nationalist; Swami Shraddhanand, an early progenitor of Hindu nationalism and the principal advocate for converting Muslims to Hinduism; and Rajpal, the Hindu publisher of a sensationalist book on the Prophet Muhammad. Revenge, Politics and Blasphemy in Pakistan then maps the curious legal and political impact of these killings, illuminating the most critical moments in Pakistan's constitutional history: 1953, when outraged protestors smashed stores owned by religious minorities, triggering the country's first state of emergency; 1974, when Islamist parties pressured Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to put blasphemy on the constitutional agenda; 1984, when Zia-ul-Haq transformed Pakistan according to his Islamist legal vision, which included more severe punishments for blasphemy; and the twenty-first century, when digital media amplified the visibility of blasphemy killings, prompting political parties to demonstrate their commitment to blasphemy laws.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)0197659683, 9780197659687, 9780197683545, 0197659683, 9780197659687, 9780197683545
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • blasphemy law
  • Pakistan
  • colonial law
  • legal history


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