47- Sherry RehmanÂ â€“Â For showing what it means to be brave in Pakistan
Prominent advocates for secular democracy in todayâ€™s Pakistan not only must have the courage of their convictions â€” they must also be prepared for the very real possibility that their careers will come to violent ends. This year alone saw the stunning assassinations of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, the sole Christian in Pakistanâ€™s government â€” a sign that the creeping Islamist fanaticism and militancy plaguing Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan know no borders.
But instead of mourning, Sherry Rehman â€” a prominent journalist, TV personality, and member of parliament from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party â€” took up the cause for which Taseer and Bhatti were murdered: their efforts to amend Pakistanâ€™s outrageous blasphemy law, which has been used as a cudgel against Pakistanâ€™s embattled minorities. In response, a prominent Islamist cleric issued a fatwa calling for her death; at the height of the furor she said she was receiving two death threats an hour. Rehman has also smashed gender barriers by founding the Jinnah Institute, a national securityâ€“centric think tank, inserting herself into a field normally dominated by a small cadre of men at the top of Pakistanâ€™s shadowy intelligence services. Her stand against religious zealots has largely confined her to her house out of fear for her safety. But she refuses to back down, saying, â€œAppeasement of extremism is a policy that will have its blowback.â€