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Human rights groups demand end to misuse of blasphemy laws & mob violence

The human rights groups have expressed deep concerns over the trend of mob violence in the guise of blasphemy accusation as observed in the lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot on December 3, and the lynching of a blasphemy accused in Khanewal on February 11, and attack on a blasphemy accused in Faisalabad on February 14 who luckily survived the attack after the police have intervened.

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They called upon the government to introduce measures to stop the misuse of blasphemy laws, protect the victims against mob violence, and enforce the existing provisions to criminalize perjury, false and malicious accusations.

The Chairperson of the Voice for Justice Joseph Jansen said that it is lamentable that Police arrived at the crime scene after the Sri Lankan national was lynched by mob in Sialkot; however, it is horrible that the mob snatched the blasphemy accused from the custody of police officers in Khanewal, and the charged crowd hanged him with a tree and then hit him with bricks till he breathed his last.

Joseph Jansen said that the police have a huge responsibility to take which involves verification of the accusation whether the blasphemy has taken place or not before lodging an FIR against the accused.

Asif Bastian said that it is unfortunate that the law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the accuser from mob violence despite there exist laws that deal with the allegations of blasphemy. The accusations of blasphemy have proven to be deadly as at least 84 persons were extrajudicial killed in Pakistan ever since the strict blasphemy laws had been introduced during the Zia period.

Ashiknaz Khokhar said that considering the overall atmosphere of hatred and intolerance, the courts need to hear the cases involving allegations of blasphemy at a safer place other than the traditional courtroom, and the police need to take adequate measures to protect the accused, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and witnesses involved in the blasphemy cases.

Alyas Samuel said that the government needs to revise the blasphemy laws to address disproportionate penalties and to put in place adequate procedural and institutional safeguards to prevent its misuse as the majority of the allegations are false and motivated to settle property disputes or personal grudges, and those accused of blasphemy do not receive a fair trial.

Farooq Bashir Advocate said that the use of allegations of blasphemy has become so common and they are frequently leveled against opponents or competitors to let them bear the dire consequences which cause violence particularly; mob violence against individuals, worship places or minority settlements, which lead to loss of humans and belongings. The religious communities including Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus become prey to the allegations.

Carol  Noreen said that the government needs to prosecute and punish the perpetrators using the allegations of blasphemy and using the loudspeakers inciting people to violence against the accused, as mostly the announcements are made through loudspeakers of mosques provoking people to gather and attack the accused and the community in some cases.

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