Year 2023 marked the highest abuse of blasphemy laws: CSJ

NationalYear 2023 marked the highest abuse of blasphemy laws: CSJ

LAHORE, Pakistan: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has expressed deep concern about the increasing abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, especially in reaction to the recent decision by Supreme Court of Pakistan and the deplorable incident of intimidation of a woman in Ichhra, Lahore. 

According to the data collected by the CSJ, at least 329 persons were allegedly accused of blasphemy in the year 2023. Of these, 247 (75%) accused were Muslims, 65 were Ahmadis, 11 were Christians, one was Hindu, while the religious affiliation of 5 accused is not known.

Punjab was the most affected province where 179 were accused followed by 79 in Sindh, 37 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 32 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one each in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. Seven persons were killed extra-judicially in year 2023, which includes four in Punjab, one each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir.

Tragically, 95 persons were killed extra-judicially between 1994 and 2023, no one was punished except Mumtaz Qadri.

In a statement issued by Wajahat Masood and the Chairperson and Executive Director CSJ Peter Jacob, it was stated that this situation called for addressing the flaws in the existing laws and looming religious intolerance.

The statement said that at least 2,449 persons had been accused of committing blasphemy between 1,987 and 2023. The highest number of accused were 1,279 Muslims (52%), followed by 782 Ahmadis (32%), 291 Christians (12%), and 45 Hindus (2%) while the religion of the accused (2%) was not confirmed. The highest number of cases 1,770 were reported in Punjab (72%), followed by 471 in Sindh (19%), 99 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (4%), 55 in Azad Jammu Kashmir (2%), 35 in Islamabad, 12 in Balochistan, and 7 in Gilgit Baltistan.

The CSJ cited data from the Punjab Prison Department revealing that as of February 13, 2024, there were 587 prisoners confined under sections 295-A, B & C of PPC in various jails across Punjab. Among these, 515 are under trial, including 508 male, 6 female, and 1 juvenile prisoners.

Referring to a recent incident in Lahore where a woman was accused of blasphemy due to a misunderstanding regarding her attire, the CSJ appreciated the swift action taken by Punjab police to ensure her safety, however, the subsequent public apology by the woman underscored the grave risk posed by unchecked mob violence.

Thehe CSJ further urged the incoming government to establish a commission of inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956. This commission should be tasked with investigating the misuse of blasphemy laws, and determining the scale and motives behind such cases, so that justice is served and that innocent lives are protected. It is crucial to address the root causes of these issues and to promote a culture of tolerance and social harmony in Pakistan.

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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