There can be no meaningful “reform” of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are inherently abusive of the rights to free speech and freedom of conscience, and there is no “right” way to implement them. Therefore, anything short of repealing them is a half-hearted measure, leaving intact the notion that the government has a right to intervene and hand down punishments for “insults” to Islam and Muhammad, real or imagined.
Reaction from Pakistan to the Pope’s comments will be interesting, to say the least. The response to Muslims who have dared to criticize the laws has been ferocious, with at least two death fatwas and an assassination so far. Then, the opinion of an uppity infidel, let alone the Pope himself (against whom they still harbor a grudge for quoting Michael Paleologus’ criticism of Islam), potentially sets the stage for another round of stellar displays of anger management.
“Pope urges Pakistan to repeal blasphemy law,” from BBC News, January 10:
Pope Benedict XVI has called on Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws, which can carry a death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
He said the laws served as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities.
The Pope referred to Pakistani governor Salman Taseer, whose assassination last week was blamed on his support for changes to the blasphemy laws. [...]
The Pope made his remarks in a new year address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.
“I once more encourage the leaders of that country [Pakistan] to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law,” he said.
“The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction,” he added.
The Pope also condemned anti-Christian attacks in Egypt and Iraq, saying they showed “the urgent need for governments of the region to adopt… effective measures for the protection of religious minorities”.
The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says it was one of the Pope’s most robust defences yet of religious freedom.
Meanwhile, even the assassin’s own brother is unwilling or afraid to pass judgment on the murder:
On Monday, Qadri’s brother told the BBC that his family had nothing to do with the murder.
“He never told us what he planned to do,” Dilpazeer Awan said.
“It was his personal act, so I cannot comment on whether he did right or wrong.”…