Zoe Richards, 2012


Languages spoken: Urdu, English, Panjabi
Thesis Advisor: Professors Hurst Hannum and Louis Aucoin


Pakistan emerged in 1947 as a nation state based on a religious national movement. General Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization in 1973 and forced implementation of Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan resulted in a marginalized religious minority community, out of which this thesis focuses on the Christians.

This thesis lays down the history of the region and the Christian people. It questions the supposedly self-evident “Islamist/Muslim” nature of Pakistan, arguing that the principles envisioned by the founder, Quaid-E-Azam, at its creation are diametrically opposed to the Pakistan of today. The Blasphemy laws are especially contentious, and enable what is considered to be religiously intolerable to be liable to criminal sanction. The constitution provides for the freedom to practice one’s religion. This needs to be examined, rather than abstractly stated, for if it were true, churches, temples, and missionary schools would not be targeted. The judiciary’s ominous silence, and the lack of critical discourse on the subject for fear of life and livelihood, adds further complexity to the situation. The thesis argues that the presence of religious norms is not only considered antithetical to modernity, but is also the reason for the apathy of the establishment and the blatant disregard of human rights law.


Prior to obtaining her first degree in law, Zoe Richards volunteered for many human rights organizations, which allowed her to critically engage with various issues faced by religious minorities and women in Pakistan. After graduating with a Bachelor in Laws degree from the University of London’s External Programme in 2009, she worked as an Associate at a premier law firm in Lahore, involved in many constitutional cases in Pakistan’s recent history. Zoe also tutored undergraduate law students in the modules of Guardianship in Islamic Jurisprudence at the Quaid-E-Azam Law College, Lahore. The following year, she trained for the Bar Professional Training Course as a student member of Lincoln’s Inn, London.

She has represented her country abroad through Seeds of Peace and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and has worked in Kibera, Nairobi, in 2008. She hopes to serve her country and community upon completion of her Fletcher LL.M. degree by continuing to volunteer in the public sector and advocate for a greater respect of human rights. Zoe has been a Fulbright recipient in the LL.M. Program at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.