State emblem under threat from national park wildflower poachers

Painting waratahs

Natasha Funke, ranger at Ku-Ring-Gai chase National Park is painting the stems of Waratahs with blue paint to make them a deterrent to people wishing to pick and sell them.

IT IS NOT a re-enactment of a scene from Alice in Wonderland. The inspiration behind marking waratahs with paint in some of Sydney’s national parks is far from creative; it’s to stop people pinching them.

Volunteers and park rangers rummage through the Ku-ring-gai Chase bushland during spring armed with paintbrushes, to mark the base of waratah blooms with blue acrylic paint.

A National Park s and Wildlife Service ranger, Natasha Funke, said painting the wildflower aimed to stymie poachers from harvesting the flora for commercial sale. The stems can attract up to $20 each.

The spectacular wildflower, which is the state floral emblem, is protected in NSW as a species of high conservation value and pinching them threatens the survival of some populations.

Ms Funke says if waratahs are torn off, they will not flower through the next season. They take five years to flower from seedlings. The species has already disappeared from some suburbs.

“You’re preventing the seeds returning to the bushland, you’re preventing the birds and the animals taking the nectar from them, and you’re preventing people in the park from actually getting to see them.”

Senior field officer Judy Morris said the use of blue paint was the most obvious and undesirable colour. “It’s so [passers-by] can see that [the flower] is not going to look attractive in a vase any more, and they’re less likely to steal it if they know people are looking after it,” she said.

Ms Morris has been painting waratahs for more than 10 years and says the striking red flower, which is in season, is a target for people who want to “pop them in their vase at home”.

“Because they’re gorgeous,” she said. “And they’re not common any more [and] there are not many flowers you can buy that are that size to put in your house.”

They are particularly vulnerable when near roads or suburbia. The flower’s botanical name, telopea, means ”seen from afar”. And the specific name, speciosissima, means beautiful or handsome. “So you have a most beautiful flower seen from afar that people want to take and put in their vase,” Ms Morris said.

Ms Funke is confident the painting method works.

“We have noticed that once they’re painted, people don’t want them, particularly for commercial resale,” she said.

When Ms Morris tells people she’s off to paint waratahs, many expect her to carry a sketch book. But she finds the real thing much more exciting.

”It’s addictive,” she said of the bush-regeneration method. ”Before you realise, it’s morning tea time.”

AQ Khan and ABC Radio of Australia and LUMS Professor

Dr Farzana Shaikh
Associate Fellow in the Asia Program at Chatham House.
Professor Pervez Hoodbhouy
Chair of the Physics Department at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad and professor, School of Science and Engineering, Lahore University of Management Sciences.
A Q Khan Audio  Click on this Link

54% of Pakistani nation is below age of 19 – Conference told

13th International Symposium begins

54% of Pakistani nation is below age of 19: moot told

By Ahtesham Azhar\23\story_23-9-2012_pg12_3
KARACHI: Experts at the 13th International Symposium have said that now the progress of nations in the world is measured with reference to the education, which are known for their achievements in education, health, science and technologies.

They expressed these views while addressing an inaugural ceremony of four-day 13th International Symposium on Natural Product Chemistry, held on Saturday, under the aegis of International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and University of Karachi (KU). About 600 delegates from 40 countries are participating in the global moot, inaugurated by KU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser. Former Chairman Higher Education Commission, Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, Director ICCBS Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhary, Dean Faculty of Sciences Prof Dr Nusrat Jameel, Managing Trustee Muhammad Hussain Panjwani Memorial Trust Nadira Pujwani, Chairmn Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation, Aziz Latif Jamal and Dr Ghulam Musharraf, Prof Dr Ahsan Dar addressed the ceremony.

They further said that around 54 per cent of Pakistani nation was below the age of 19, which is the real wealth of the country. “Science can bridge the gape between people of different races, languages, countries and regions.”

Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman said that science could make all countries closer in the world, which was the miracle of science. “Knowledge is the only key driver to get socio-economic progress in the world.”

He said, “Pakistani population is attributed with the large segment of youth, which is the real wealth of the country. Strong educational and research institutions play a crucial role in the development of any nation by providing world class human resources.”

Director ICCBS Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry said ICCBS had become the largest and finest institutions in this region. In last two years, we increased our Ph D enrolment from 310 to 480, expanded our international collaboration with twenty three new MoUs, welcomed over 180 foreign scholars from some 50 nations, published over 600 international research papers, patented 20 new findings internationally and established several new institutions, he added.

“The aim of the symposium was to bring together the leading experts in the field of natural products sciences from all around the world and form global partnership for sustainable utilisation of natural resources for the common benefits of humanity and rapid development of the countries in the south,” he said.

Earlier, speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the symposium, the KU Vice Chancellor said that there was dire need to make our country stronger through science and technology to fight against the enemies of the country and humanity.

He said, “In today’s world, nations are known for their achievements in education. Development is no more considered to be the development of infrastructure, roads, dams and bridges. The whole notion of development has been changed. It is now defined and measured with reference to the education, enlightenment, tolerance, self-fulfillment and productivity. Karachi University has many finest institutions like ICCBS, which comprises HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry and Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicines and Drug Research (PCMD).”


Boys School blown up in Shabqadar

Boys School blown up in Shabqadar

Saturday, September 22, 2012\22\story_22-9-2012_pg7_11

SHABQADAR: Unidentified miscreants blew up a government middle school for boys with an explosive device in Saro Killay area. Two rooms of the school building were completely destroyed. It is pertinent to mention that this was the second attack on the school’s building. inp

Uplift in FATA as important as military action, says Kayani

Only in 2012 suddenly “UpLift” in FATA is important for ARMY !!!

Uplift in FATA as important as military action, says Kayani
Saturday, September 22, 2012\22\story_22-9-2012_pg7_4

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday said that continued support of the public and development in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) was as important as military operations against the miscreants in the region.

He said this while interacting with commanding officers of formations and units deployed in the area, during a visit to South Waziristan, an ISPR press release said.

Speaking on the occasion, he emphasised upon the importance of sustaining successes achieved in recent years against terrorism, until the menace was completely subdued.

For this purpose, he said, continued support of the public and development of the area was as important as military operations. The COAS lauded the sacrifices and efforts of the army in the fight against terror. app

VIEW : Exploitation of Islam — I — Professor Farakh A Khan – Pak Dailytimes Newspaper

Saturday, September 22, 2012\22\story_22-9-2012_pg3_6

VIEW : Exploitation of Islam — I — Professor Farakh A Khan

We have ‘defenders of Islam’ who carry out ethnic cleansing. Taking over mosques by different sects is a lucrative step

I have no hard scientific data but I feel religion in Pakistan is the largest corporation. People donate to build new mosques, madrassas, maintenance of thousands of shrines and mosques. People also donate to Islamic social welfare organisations and to various shades of Islamic organisations including jihadis. The people of Pakistan give freely to the needy in the form of zakat for their health and education. Many people operate free langar (free meals) for the poor. The religious leaders have no role to play in improving moral, social, tolerance and ethical values of our society.
Religious groups are into education for earning money. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Tanzeemul Madaris (Barelvi), Wafaqul Madaris Board (Deobandi) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are all running English medium schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The JI is also running a medical and dental college in Peshawar. All these organisations have separate religious schools.
At the same time, Islam is exploited in many ways. During Ramazan, TV advertisements focus on the Islamic aspects of their products. The sellers of jewellery also advertised the name of Allah on their bracelets. The ghee (cooking oil) ads show its flavour during Iftari and the soft drinks do the same. Many religious parties own TV channels. Can we allow religious TV channels of any other faith?
Every year, moon sighting only at the end of the Ramazan month is a painful pantomime. Old folks, with poor eyesight with thick glasses and a telescope, try to see the new moon. Use of glasses and a telescope could be the ancient Islamic teaching. Sighting of the moon is a scientific event and has to be taken out of the hands of a religious committee. We also have the classical example of kidney transplantation in Pakistan. This became a hot religious issue starting in 1986. There was a strong sentiment among the ulema that it was un-Islamic. When some cleric had a kidney failure patient in the family, he went and got a fatwa in support of kidney transplantation. However, resistance continued for more than a decade with obscure illogical arguments from the learned religious leaders. The issue was settled when most Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia declared that transplantation was not against Islamic teachings.
We also have criminal elements using Islam. We have been told of big names posing as defenders of Islam and gatekeepers of paradise who are or were on the regular payroll of the agencies or even foreign governments. We also have people who indulge in extortion, kidnappings and target killings claiming to be defending Islam. We have ‘defenders of Islam’ who carry out ethnic cleansing. Taking over mosques by different sects is a lucrative step. We also have pirs and gadinasheens (spiritual leaders) of various shrines across Pakistan making huge earnings. Finally, some suicide bombers claiming to be motivated by ‘Islamic teachings’ killed many innocent people.
We are experiencing sectarian killing in the name of Islam. To some degree, sectarian strife was present in British India but then we did not have AK 47s or better transport. Islamisation efforts by General Zia destabilised Pakistan. During Zia’s time, Deobandi and Barelvi were at each other’s throat, regularly killing one another. We also have the Tehreek-e-Taliban that has discarded democracy and the constitution as the devil’s implants, wants Shariah in Pakistan and has chosen the path of violence on all Pakistanis to attain its goal. They nearly succeeded in Swat before being routed by the army. The Taliban have now moved to Karachi, targeting people who are against them. The Taliban are also reported to be indulging in kidnappings and bank heists to sustain them. They are being sustained by financial support from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Sectarian killings are now out of control in the Middle East and have become a major destabilising factor in the area.
The extremists, to a degree, have made the media subservient through threats of violence. The media dare not produce any programme criticising these extremists/radicals of our society. These organisations, some banned in Pakistan, freely collect funds in Pakistan and have expensive training centres functioning. This has led to speculation that they have the support of the agencies, which the latter deny. There are allegations that the attackers on Mehran Naval Base, Karachi, and the Kamra Air Base had inside help.
The attack on minorities, Christians, Hindus and Qadianis by people motivated by a strange kind of Islam, is more disturbing. Misuse of the Blasphemy law (Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code) to terrorise and grab the land of the minorities happens often. Any change in this law can motivate ordinary peace-loving people to kill. We lost one governor when he suggested changes in the law. The killer had widespread support from religious leaders. Blasphemy shows strange kinds of aggressive behaviour in normally passive people and they are ready to kill or to be killed. Most of the victims are non-Muslims. Perhaps, this is a shortcut to paradise.

(To be continued)

The writer is a freelance writer

A solution for Pakistan’s future

Singh scrambles for solutions to put India back on track

September 22, 2012
  • 3 reading now
Hamish McDonald

Hamish McDonald

Asia-Pacific editor, Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Hamish McDonald

Samajwadi Party activists block a train during a strike in Allahabad, India.Unrest … Samajwadi Party activists block a train during a strike in Allahabad this week, above, and burn an effigy of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, below. Photos: AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh Photo: AP

THIS has been a tense and critical week in Indian politics, a week of decisions vital to the emerging economic giant regaining a high growth path.

We all know about the ”Incredible India” – the travel destination of palaces, temples, and human colour. Now the world’s economic analysts and strategists are looking for a ”Credible India” that can take decisions and stick to them.

Needless to say, resource and energy supplier Australia has a lot riding on it.

Activists hold an effigy representing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues.Activists hold an effigy representing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues. Photo: AP

India has been in the economic doldrums for a couple of years. Economic growth that had hit 8 per cent has slipped to a little over 5 per cent in the first half of this year and in July industrial output had almost flattened.


With its fiscal deficit bulging because of subsidies, and inflation edging up towards 8 per cent and requiring punitive interest rates from the central bank, India has been facing the humiliation of a big downgrade in its credit rating to junk status.

Three years after its re-election in 2009, the Congress Party-led coalition government of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has lost all credibility gained from the strong economic performance of its previous five years in office.

Opposition parties and trade unions called for shopkeepers, traders and labourers in India to block railway lines and close markets to protest against reforms.Opposition parties and trade unions called for shopkeepers, traders and labourers in India to block railway lines and close markets to protest against reforms. Photo: AFP

It has lurched from scandal to scandal, the latest being the so-called ”Coalgate” affair, after the Indian auditor-general calculated that over-generous terms of coal mining concessions would lose the government about $36 billion in future revenue. This came after a similar estimated giveaway in mobile phone licences.

Singh has looked a helpless figure throughout all of this. The former finance secretary and central bank governor has immense prestige as the father of India’s opening from his time as finance minister in 1991-96, but has more recently been a figurehead for Congress.

The most powerful figure in the party has been Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of the assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who is nurturing the career of their son, Rahul, currently the party secretary and a backbench MP. Her instincts are populist, amplified by the clutch of regional and lower-caste parties giving the coalition its majority.

After a weak performance earlier this year in elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state, at which Rahul failed to show the expected voter attraction of the Gandhi dynasty, the government had been in what its Minister for Heavy Industries, Praful Patel, admitted to be ”policy paralysis”.

It has clearly got to Singh. A preliminary sign was the removal of the former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee by getting him kicked upstairs to the presidency, and his replacement by Palaniappan Chidambaram, who had been Singh’s partner as commerce minister during the 1990s reforms.

In the past week they have announced a series of big new changes in fiscal and investment policies designed to get economic growth quickly up to an average 8.2 per cent for the next five years, hitting 9 per cent a year by 2017.

First off was a 14 per cent rise in the administered price of diesel fuel and a rise in the price of bottled gas for household use as part of an effort to bring subsidies, currently 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product, below 2 per cent.

Then came a lifting of barriers to foreign investment in two attractive sectors. Foreign multibrand retailers such as Carrefour and Walmart, previously excluded from India, will be allowed to set up local operations with 51 per cent ownership.

Single-brand retailers, such as the big multinational sportswear and electronics chains, will no longer have to source at least 30 per cent of their products from local small and medium-sized enterprises.

Foreign investors will be allowed to take up to 49 per cent of Indian airlines, opening the possibility of foreign partnership in the national carrier Air India to lift it out of its bureaucratic mindset, and fresh investment in the fast-growing private-sector carriers that have been struggling as the sinking rupee raises debt-servicing and fuel costs.

Similar foreign equity levels will be allowed in electricity-trading exchanges, and four big state-owned corporations – Hindustan Copper, National Aluminium, Mines and Minerals Trading Corp and Oil India – will be floated in the sharemarket.

The aim is to encourage a burst of capital inflow to lessen the need for foreign borrowing and thereby support India’s credit rating. Whether it will succeed depends on the politics now. Singh tried to lift the barrier to foreign retail chains at the end of last year, only to be forced into policy reversal a week later by a revolt in his coalition.

This week, one of the bigger coalition parties, the Trinamool Congress, led by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, walked out after demanding the reversal of all the new measures. That brought Singh’s numbers in the lower house of parliament down from 273 to 254, 18 below the bare majority of 272.

Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders have been trying to rope in the two lower-caste parties strongest in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party, whose Australian-educated Akhilav Yadav is the state’s Chief Minister, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose leader is his predecessor, Mayawati Kumar.

Their numbers in the national parliament would give the coalition a healthy majority. Both these parties have constituencies reliant on subsidies for their tractor, water pump and domestic fuel. No doubt Gandhi is also working on Singh to see if the subsidy cuts could be wound back a bit.

Singh’s best counter to win over their recruits is to point out that unless investment inflows and growth can be revived, the 2014 elections could see a return of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu-nationalist group seen by them as trying to perpetuate the old caste hierarchy.

Retail sector policy is also tailored to appeal to the rural communities. The minimum investment is $US100 million ($95.4 million) and half of that has to be in ”back end” local procurement and logistics chains in farming areas. Linfox is one Australian company that has already been investing in preparations for this opening.

”On more than one occasion during the last two years, the government has taken decisions only to withdraw them under pressure from allies,” says Amitendu Palit of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies.

”If something similar happens this time too, then not only will the government be stripped of whatever credibility it has, but policy paralysis will be there to stay for the foreseeable future.”

Widespread strikes and protests greet invitation to foreign retailers

Widespread strikes and protests greet invitation to foreign retailers

Date    September 22, 2012
Angry demonstrators disrupted trains and forced some shops and schools to close in a partly successful national strike protesting a government decision to cut fuel subsidies and open India's huge retail market to foreign companies.Disrupting trains, closing schools and shutting up shop … angry demonstrators pull off a national strike protesting a government decision to cut fuel subsidies and open India’s huge retail market to foreign companies. Photo: AP

DELHI: Shopkeepers across India shut their stores and many took to the streets to protest against the government’s recent decision to allow in foreign retailers such as Walmart and Tesco.

Traders and political activists blocked roads and climbed on trains on as part of a national strike on Thursday, holding up anti-Walmart posters and demanding that the government ”Take it back”.

Several politicians, including one whose party supports the coalition government of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said welcoming Walmart would destroy the small neighbourhood shops that are the backbone of Indian retailing.

”The government is lying that companies like Walmart will generate millions of jobs in India. What about the 50 million small traders and shopkeepers who will be ruined?” said Murli Manohar Joshi, an MP with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, echoing arguments that have been made in American cities again the mega-retailer.


”Most of Walmart’s goods are made by Chinese companies,” Mr Joshi said. ”This decision will mean that Chinese goods will enter India through the back door. It will not benefit Indians.”

On Tuesday, a key member of Dr Singh’s coalition withdrew from the government over the decision.

The government backed down from allowing foreign supermarkets last year in the face of similar opposition, but it says it will not do so again.

Dr Singh has been widely castigated for failing to push through reforms that the private sector says it desperately needs and for presiding over a sharp economic slowdown.

The Washington Post

Invoking Pakistan’s blasphemy laws is often a cover for victimisation and murder. But this may be changing, thanks to 14-year-old Rimsha Masih.

The teenage girl rattling a nation

September 19, 2012
  • 14 reading now

Ben Doherty

Invoking Pakistan’s blasphemy laws is often a cover for victimisation and murder. But this may be changing, thanks to 14-year-old Rimsha Masih.

Heavily armed security officials rush Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, to a military helicopter to fly her to a secret location after her release on bail..Heavily armed security officials rush Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, to a military helicopter to fly her to a secret location. Photo: Reuters

RIMSHA Masih kept her face covered as she was bundled by heavily armed soldiers into the waiting military helicopter. As the soldier manning the fixed machinegun took his seat next to her, the 14-year-old girl let her veil fall and stared outside. The world caught a glimpse of the new, terrified, face of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

But this scene, the image of a young girl frightened by something she couldn’t understand, and in a situation not of her making, may be the turning point for this unyielding, draconian law.

Rimsha Masih found herself embroiled in the latest blasphemy controversy in extraordinary circumstances, even by Pakistani standards.

...Villagers protest against the country’s strict blasphemy laws. Photo: AFP

Rimsha is a poor Christian who lived in a slum on the outskirts of the country’s capital Islamabad. On August 16, a baying mob surrounded her family’s tiny concrete home and threatened to set it on fire.”We are going to burn you inside your house,” the mob reportedly yelled, as the Masih family cowered inside. ”Then we will burn the homes of the other Christians.”


The mob was there because local cleric Khalid Chishti had alleged Rimsha had desecrated the Koran. He said he saw torn and burnt pages of a child’s religious textbook in the plastic rubbish bag Rimsha was carrying to a nearby dump. Police quickly came and arrested Rimsha, rescuing her from the mob. But they then imprisoned her in an adult jail despite the fact she was 14, illiterate, and intellectually disabled.

The case grew stranger still. After two weeks, the imam who had first accused her was himself arrested. His deputy came forward to police, telling them he had seen Chishti plant the torn pages in Rimsha’s bag. It was, he said, an attempt to ”rid the neighbourhood of Christians”.

...Pakistani Christian Rimsha Masih, 14, has been accused of blasphemy. Photo: AFP

More witnesses came forward to corroborate the fabrication, and Rimsha was hurriedly bailed, and arrangements were made for her security.

Despite rumours she has been spirited out of the country, Rimsha remains in Pakistan. ”I’m scared … I’m afraid of anyone who might kill us,” she told a TV interviewer.

Masih’s case has challenged Pakistan in a way that previous blasphemy trials have not. For the first time, prominent Islamic scholars have spoken out against her arrest and persecution, and have called for reform of the blasphemy laws.

Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Islamic clerical group, the Ulema Council, and a man with links to hardline religious groups, took the extraordinary step of describing Rimsha as ”Pakistan’s daughter”.

”The law of the jungle is taking over now and anybody can be accused of anything,” he said in support of the Christian girl’s release.

”We see Rimsha as a test case for Pakistan’s Muslims, Pakistan’s minorities and for the government. We don’t want to see injustice done … we will work to end this climate of fear. The accusers should be proceeded against with full force, so that no one would dare make spurious allegations.”

Other senior Muslim clerics have also urged restraint concerning Masih, and for reform of the blasphemy laws.

The chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League, Sajid Ishaq, said widespread Muslim support for a moderation of the law was unprecedented.

”This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that [the] Muslim community and scholars have stood up for non-Muslims. We are together, demanding justice, demanding an unbiased investigation.”

The tide, for so long running towards a stricter interpretation of blasphemy, and harsher punishments for transgressions, may have been turned by one small girl. (Rimsha still faces the blasphemy charge but on Monday an Islamabad court gave police until Friday to formally file a charge sheet against her.)

But there remains a fundamental stumbling block: the co-operation of the body that will actually legislate to reform the law.

Two years ago, Pakistan’s parliament was considering a bill to amend the blasphemy law, to make it more difficult to make false accusations. Then a noted advocate for change, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, was gunned down by his own bodyguard.

Emboldened religious groups grew more vocal in their opposition to the bill and the government’s resolve wilted. The bill was withdrawn in February 2011.

Even with the proposed law off the table, another prominent supporter of reform, minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed the following month.

Xavier William, from advocacy group Life for All Pakistan, told The Age a lack of political will was holding the country back.

”The Ulema Council now talks about the reforms in the blasphemy laws, and many secular Pakistanis are talking about the reforms, but the legislation must be done by the parliament, which is silent,” he says.

”Pakistan’s government took a U-turn on the reforms in the blasphemy laws after Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassinations. I don’t see anything happening in the near future.”

Pakistan’s government is unpopular and weak; it has lost one prime minister for contempt of court and may lose another. It faces elections probably before the end of the year. So moves to moderate the blasphemy laws will be portrayed by religious parties as an act against Islam. It would be electoral suicide.

Since 1986, when the death penalty was inserted into the blasphemy law, for: ”whoever … defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)”, no one who has ever been convicted and sentenced to die has been executed by the state. Instead, the law has become a cover for murder.

Since 1990, 52 people have been killed by vigilantes after being accused of blasphemy, according to latest figures just released by the Centre for Research and Security Studies.

A list of those murdered includes Muslim, Christian and Hindu names. In 2008 Hindu Jagdesh Kumar was killed by colleagues at a Karachi factory, allegedly as police watched on.

In 2009, eight Christians in Gojra were burnt to death in their homes after rumours were spread that a Koran had been desecrated during a wedding ceremony.

A year later, two Christian brothers, Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel, were gunned down as they sat, handcuffed in police custody, in a courthouse during their trial.

The number of blasphemy cases is rising sharply in Pakistan. Under nearly 100 years of British rule, from 1851 to 1947, only seven cases of blasphemy were reported. But under the military dictatorship of religious hardliner Zia-ul-Haq from 1978 to 1988, 80 blasphemy cases were taken to court.

Since his rule, as Pakistan has grown steadily more religiously conservative and militant, more than 250 cases have been lodged.

While the Masih case has garnered international attention and pressured Islamabad’s court into the extraordinary decision to grant bail – no accused blasphemer has ever been bailed before – the terror of the blasphemy law lies in how often it is abused without attracting any public attention.

In July, a nameless man who was believed to be mentally ill was accused of burning pages of the Koran.

He was arrested and locked up at the police station in Chani Ghoth, in the Bahawalpur district in Punjab. But local imams heard of his alleged offence and began broadcasting over loudspeakers that a man had offended Islam.

”A huge mob gathered outside the police station and they demanded to hand over the person who had committed blasphemy,” the Chani Ghoth deputy superintendent of police said.

”They even blocked the main highway and within a few moments the mob broke the gates of the police station and attacked the police officers.”

The accused man was dragged from the lock-up into the street outside.

”Before we could know the details about the person who was arrested, the mob broke the lock-up and took out the prisoner, threw petrol on him and burnt him alive.” No one was ever charged and the dead man’s name was never discovered.

Given the consequences of being accused of blasphemy, the law is regularly used in Pakistan to settle grievances unrelated to religion, involving disputes over land and money or it can come to just petty personal enmity.

Asia Bibi, also known as Asia Noreen, was a Christian mother of four, from a poor, illiterate family, working as a farmhand in Punjab in 2009.

After she was asked to fetch some water, some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink it, believing Christians to be unclean. In the argument that followed, Ms Bibi is alleged to have denigrated Islam. Her neighbours tried to execute her on the spot.

”They tried to put a noose around my neck so that they could kill me,” she said during her trial.

Advocates say Bibi never blasphemed and that the dispute stemmed from a running feud with a neighbour over some minor property damage.

But she was convicted and sentenced to hang. She awaits either death at the hands of the state, or, if she is ever freed, at the hands of vigilantes.

A radical cleric has offered half a million Pakistani rupees for anyone prepared to ”finish her”.

Xavier William says Pakistan lives in fear of the mob.

”The use of this law has created an environment where some religious fanatics believe that they are entitled to take the law into their own hands.

”There have been many instances, where the local administration and police have either colluded with perpetrators or have stood by and done nothing to assist the accused.”

Just over a year ago, The Age met Paul Bhatti in Islamabad when he returned to Pakistan after many years working as a surgeon in Italy.

His brother Shahbaz had been the minorities minister in the Pakistani government, the only Christian in the cabinet, and someone who was strongly critical of the blasphemy laws.

Indirectly, those laws claimed Shahbaz Bhatti, too.

Gunmen surrounded Shahbaz’s government car one morning as he drove to work from his mother’s house and opened fire on him and his eight-year-old niece.

A few days after his brother’s murder Paul Bhatti told The Age that Pakistan’s minorities did not seek the repeal of a blasphemy law that was administered fairly, but wanted to stop its murderous abuse.

”Our aim is equality of all people in Pakistan. This is a critical moment, a time of warning for our country. This country could progress, it could learn and grown stronger from this, or it could be lost to extremists. And then Pakistan will be gone.”

Ben Doherty is South Asia correspondent.