In a move that has drawn widespread appreciation, a police officer in Karachi has invoked Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code to register a blasphemy case against Muslims who vandalized a Hindu temple in the metropolis on September 21 during the rioting against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Nine people including a local cleric have been named in the case for attacking the Shri Krishna Bhagwan Mandir in the Gulshan-e-Maymar area of Karachi. Though many of those facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan are Muslims themselves under Section 295-B and C which specifically pertains to showing disrespect to the Holy Quran or the Prophet respectively, it is rare that the original blasphemy law - introduced by the British in 1927 - has been invoked here.

Article 295-A pertains to deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. This provision had been introduced by the British to prohibit blasphemy towards all religions. Subsequently, during the Zia-ul-Haq era, this was amended to introduce 295-B to punish with life those accused of defiling the Quran and later 295-C that awards death to anyone showing disrespect to the Prophet.

In fact, studies have shown that Article 295-A had been invoked only 10 times between 1927 and 1986 when 295-C was introduced. Since then, the blasphemy law has been used frequently with at least 1,000 such cases.

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