Imran Khan [aka Taliban Khan] has been accused of risking bloodshed for electoral gain after the former cricketer-turned-politician offered a full-throated defence of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the run-up to the general election on 25 July.
“We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” said the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a gathering of Muslim leaders in Islamabad on Saturday, referring to the clause of the constitution that mandates the death penalty for any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the prophet Muhammad.
Khan, 65, also directed anger at the rival party in the electoral race, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), by resurfacing controversy over its hastily withdrawn edits to an electoral oath last year, which Islamists deem blasphemous.
Few politicians dare to speak out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws: the last to prominently do so, Gov. Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated in 2011, and a new political party formed in honour of his killer, Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), has thrust its way into the election campaign, fielding almost as many candidates as the established parties.