Rights activists express concerns over trial of blasphemy accused under anti-terrorism act

NationalRights activists express concerns over trial of blasphemy accused under anti-terrorism act

The human rights activists have voiced deep concerns over the recent agreement entered between the government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) where both parties agreed to set up a counter-blasphemy wing at Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and include the charge under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act against blasphemy accused in addition to Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty.

They have urged the government to prioritize the safety and security of blasphemy accused, and introduce robust legal and administrative safeguards to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws, rather than opening avenues for its further abuse.

   

The Chairperson of the Voice for Justice Joseph Jansen warned that the measures to address the misuse of blasphemy laws are necessary, however, the inclusion of the charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act will make the blasphemy accused more vulnerable, and is likely to embolden false accusations, fuel mob justice, and intensify harassment and persecution against minority groups.

Joseph Jansen added that the blasphemy laws are susceptible to misuse and abuse by individuals or groups seeking to suppress dissent or impose their religious views on others. The potential for arbitrary enforcement and selective prosecution undermines the principles of fairness, justice, and the rule of law. He emphasized that it is crucial for Pakistan to undertake comprehensive reforms to uphold fundamental rights and ensure justice for all its citizens.

Ashiknaz Khokhar said that the existing blasphemy laws serve as a firewood plank for some religio-political groups to facilitate and perpetrate acts of violence against the accused on the mere accusation of blasphemy, witnessing extra-judicial killings of over 90 persons between 1980 and 2023. He cautioned that the more stringent the law, the harsher the punishment, and the more violent society becomes. The application of stricter laws against blasphemy accused, without being proven guilty, will result in further misuse by miscreants to spread hatred and intolerance in the name of protection of religion.

Rights activist Shamaun Alfred Vice Chairman of Minority Alliance Pakistan, said that the blasphemy laws are applied with guaranteed immunity for the complainant, no matter whether the allegation is based on facts or falsehood, or the has committed any act of blasphemy intentionally or unintentionally. The complainants involved in making false allegations are never brought to justice despite the offense of giving false information is punishable under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

A women human rights activist Nadia Stephen said that the blasphemy laws are inconsistent with international human rights standards, and pose a significant threat to freedom of expression, religious diversity, and social harmony. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are vaguely worded and broad, fail to define insult, and fail to consider proof of intent or evidence against the alleged, needed to meet international standards of law.

They said that it is evident that the majority of cases under charges of blasphemy either online or offline are based on false accusations stemming from property disputes or political rivalries or personal vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy. The complainant who levels blasphemy allegations against any person should be required to prove malicious intent. However, this crucial stipulation is absent in the legislation and is not taken into account during blasphemy trials. He cited the recent case of Mussarat, an illiterate Christian woman, who was falsely accused of blasphemy while innocently carrying out her job. This case serves as clear evidence of the abuse of blasphemy laws, wherein personal disputes are painted with a veneer of religious defamation.

The human rights activists called on the Pakistani authorities to prioritize the safety and security of blasphemy-accused individuals and introduce comprehensive legal and administrative safeguards to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws.

They urged the government to align Pakistan’s legislation with international human rights standards, safeguarding freedom of expression, religious diversity, and the principles of fairness and justice for all citizens.

Mati
Mati
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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