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Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws likely to push economy into deeper crisis

Pakistani Parliament: The country's economic crisis is deepening (Photo: Twitter)

Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy laws could dent its already battered economy. The recent arrest of a Chinese engineer, who was accused of blasphemy has sent chills across the country’s industry and economic managers.The blasphemy laws along with Islamabad’s deteriorating security situation owing to the rise in threat from the militant outfit Pakistani Taliban or the TTP poses a serious threat to the country’s economic dynamics.

The country’s industry captains fear that the incident will choke inflow of investments into the country, which is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.

Many experts have opined that not only will the shocking incident dent Pakistan-China relations but will act as a deterrent for other foreign investors as well. That apart, staring at a default, Pakistan is seeking China’s nod for a rollover of a substantial amount of loan. “The incident (of the arrest of the Chinese engineer) may spell trouble for Islamabad as it tries to renegotiate the terms of the loans,” an analyst said.

Earlier this month, Sweden, in view of the deteriorating “security situation” decided to shut down its embassy “indefinitely”. In February, the Chinese embassy announced shutting down its consular section citing “technical reasons.” Though it offered no reason for the closure, sources said that the growing political unrest in the country was a key factor.

In 2021, a Sri Lankan working as a manager at a factory in Sialkot was beaten to death after being falsely accused of insulting Islam.

The list is long. According to the Conversation, Pakistan has the world’s second-strictest blasphemy laws after Iran. It noted that the country recorded about 1,500 blasphemy cases over the past three decades.

The country registered about 200 blasphemy cases in 2020 alone—the highest in a year.

“Domestic and international rights groups say allegations of blasphemy are enough to cause mob attacks and the killing of the accused,” Voice of America said.

Notwithstanding the rising challenges—political as well as economic — that were further aggravated by the devastating floods last year, in January this year, Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously voted to expand the blasphemy laws, carrying the death penalty for anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad. This has led to further dampening of sentiments among the foreign investors and expatriates.

“The hyper religiosity promoted through state institutions and the toxic education in our schools is not getting us admiration anywhere. Instead, it is producing a wild, uncontrollable population. Even our friends now fear us,” Dawn in its opinion columns wrote.

The news organisation also noted that while other Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia are now switching gears by opening up social structures and inviting foreign capital, Pakistan’s focus has remained unchanged.

Also read: Pakistan’s brain drain turns alarming as educated queue up to leave