Govt urged to halt misuse of blasphemy laws & improve religious freedom conditions

NationalGovt urged to halt misuse of blasphemy laws & improve religious freedom...

The human rights activists have expressed their grave concerns over the lack of safeguards against the massive misuse of blasphemy laws, and urged the government to reconsider the amendment bill, keeping its need and its consequences in view.

They emphasized that the sacred personages were role models, and they forgave those who made attempts to humiliate them. The attempt to introduce laws with harsh punishment aimed at increasing respect for sacred personalities is against the ideals of tolerance and forgiveness they promoted.


They referred to section 298A of PPC, introduced in 1980 with an aim to target a particular Muslim sect, and now the national assembly has passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023, enhancing the punishment for those who insult the sacred personalities from 3 years to life imprisonment, not less than 10 years along with a fine of one million rupees.

The Chairperson of Voice for Justice Joseph Jansen lamented that this amendment if passed in Senate will enlarge the scope of blasphemy laws instead of bringing safeguards against their misuse, which will increase the likelihood of its misuse by groups with vested interests, resulting in false accusations, mob justice, and increase in harassment and persecution of minority groups. He said that blasphemy laws have enabled and encouraged legal discrimination and persecution in the name of religion. The blasphemy laws are in conflict with international human rights standards, and are applied without inquiring whether the accused has committed any act of blasphemy intentionally or unintentionally. He noted that the complainant who levels blasphemy allegations against any person is bound to prove malicious intent, but this stipulation is missing in legislation and is not taken into account during blasphemy trials.

A human rights activist Ashiknaz Khokhar said that evidence shows that the more stringent the law, harsher the punishment, more violent the society becomes. We make our path to destruction further immune to a reversal with every such amendment to blasphemy laws. He added that the blasphemy laws impede the right to freedom of expression and faith, and a recent case involving a female Christian security officer, Samina Mushtaq from Karachi is a clear depiction of how the accusation of blasphemy is misused against religious and sectarian minorities. This case is a clear indication that social matters are painted in a color of defamation of religion and the blasphemy laws are misused to settle personal scores. The onus is on the Pakistani authorities to make arrangements for the safety and security of the blasphemy accused, and introduce legal and administrative safeguards to prevent its misuse, he demanded.

Rana Abdul Hameed advocate lamented that accusations of blasphemy have not spared the digital space, and it is becoming a new norm in Pakistan, where complaints are filed for just liking, commenting or forwarding content on social media under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 which has resulted in increasing the persecution of religious and sectarian minorities. He referred to a case where Ishtiaq Saleem from Islamabad, was allegedly accused of posting blasphemous content on social media, and was arrested by FIA on 29 November 2022, and put in jail. Similarly, Imran Rehman was allegedly accused of posting blasphemous material in a WhatsApp group, and was arrested by FIA on 14 September 2022, and has been in jail for over four months now. Likewise, Shagufta Kiran has been in jail since July 2021 on the accusation of disseminating blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group. The blasphemy accusation not only disrupts the lives of the accused, but ruins the lives of the family members of the accused as well, who are forced to lead their lives under constant fear and on the margins.

A human rights activist, Ilyas Samuel lamented that the perpetrators with wicked motives, harmful to public order, peace and social cohesion, are not prosecuted and they enjoy impunity despite being involved in acts of discrimination, intolerance, hatred, and violence against religious communities. Sadly, the innocuous people for sharing their reactions to social media posts are apprehended and sentenced to death.

Mati-Ullah is the Online Editor For DND. He is the real man to handle the team around the Country and get news from them and provide to you instantly.

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