PAKISTAN: Appeal to amend the Blasphemy Laws‏

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-183-2010

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the introduction of a private member’s bill to the National Assembly Secretariat that would end the death penalty for blasphemy, curtail abuse of the blasphemy laws for the purpose of harassing and victimising religious minorities and take steps to ensure equal protection for all religions under the law. The bill was introduced by People’s Party member of the National Assembly Ms. Sherry Rehman, former federal minister, who said, “The bill amends both the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), the two main sources of criminal law. The aim is to amend the codes to ensure protection of Pakistan’s minorities and vulnerable citizens, who routinely face judgments and verdicts in the lower courts where mob pressure is often mobilised to obtain a conviction.”

Following the Asia Bibi case, in which a Christian woman was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, Ms. Rehman has introduced an amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The amendment would end the death penalty for blasphemy and take steps toward ensuring equal protections for religious minorities under the law in Pakistan.

Currently, extreme militant Muslim organisations may use blasphemy laws as a way to pressure and oppress religious minority groups. So far, the government has failed to protect the lives and property of the minority community. Although there is formal protection in place for religious minorities in the Constitution and although the blasphemy law has made it compulsory that no police officer below the rank of Superintendent of Police can investigate the charges, these statutes are rarely respected.

Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police, who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directives of extremists in the community, must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan.

The deliberate institutionalisation of Islam’s status as protected and predominant promoted the perpetuation of religious intolerance by Islamic fundamentalists. According to data collected through different sources at least 1030 persons were charged under these anti-blasphemy clauses from 1986 to August 2009, while over 30 persons were killed extra-judicially by angry mobs or individuals.

Militant Muslim organisations are using blasphemy as a tool as the best way to keep religious minority groups under pressure and even forcibly take land. The State is failing to protect the lives and property of the minority community.

In August 2009 after the attack on the Christian population in Gojra, Punjab province, in which seven Christians were burnt to death, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani again announced plans to review “laws detrimental to religious harmony” in a committee comprising of constitutional experts, the minister for minorities, the religious affairs minister and other representatives, but the government has again hesitated to initiate change due to their unwillingness to antagonize fundamentalist groups.

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Recent cases in Pakistan suggest a criminal collaboration among government authorities, police, and fundamentalist organisations, in which the Muslim clergy, on receiving bribes from land-grabbers in the National and Provincial Assemblies, colluded with local police to expropriate land owned by minorities by bringing allegations of blasphemy against them. The situation is especially worrying in Punjab province after the formation of the PML-N government, which has a record of intolerant policies against Christians and Ahmadis in particular.

The introduction of an amendment in the National Assembly that would limit the abuse of blasphemy laws is a major development in Pakistan and must be supported strongly. Please write letters to legislators, officials, and civil society leaders urging them to support and lobby for this law.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of religious minorities calling for his intervention into the misuse of blasphemy law.

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Pakistani Christians face Balsphemy Laws again

Update July 19, 2010

A Muslim mob of 400 zealots is tracking two individuals while threatening the 100,000 Christians living in the city of Faisalabad in Pakistan. The mob wants the lives of two Christians who had been accused under the treacherous Blasphemy Laws for alleged insults to Prophet Mohammad PBUH in a handwritten pamphlet.

As it has been in the past, members of a religious minority are hunted down under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws where the ‘evidence’ is doctored and the action is a show of deadly strength to intimidate all non-Muslims, non-Sunni Muslims and secular minded Muslims in the country.

Various human rights and inter-faith organizations have demanded from the successive governments to repeal the Blasphemy Laws but each Government protects it to support Sunni Fanatics and to fulfill its own political ambitions.

Below is an eyewitness account by Atif Jamil Pagaan, a prominent social activist and the director of Harmony Foundation in Faisalabad, that was posted to the mailing list of Labour Party Pakistan ( by Farooq Tariq.

Muslim mob demands death sentence for alleged blasphemy law accused
By Atif Jamal Pagaan

‘Thousands of Muslims took out a procession on the roads of Faisalabad from the afternoon till evening on July 11, 2010. They were demanding death sentences for Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel of Daud Nagar Faisalabad, two brothers who were arrested on July 2, 2010 on the charges of writing a pamphlet with blasphemous remarks about Prophet Mohammad.

‘Both the brothers were arrested and are in the Civil Lines Police Station. Rashid and Sajid reside in a street next to my home.

‘The protest started on the evening of July 10, 2010 in Waris Pura where more than 100,000 Christians live. The mob wanted to attack and burn the area where Rashid and Sajid live and burn their house. The protesters chanted slogans, raised weapons and announced to teach a lesson to the Christian community in Waris Pura. More than 400 protesters continued their protest for six hours in which they stoned the Catholic Church in Waris Pura and burnt tyres on the roads.

‘Despite the presence of the police the protesters did not disburse but announced to continue their protest on July 11, 2010.

‘The Christian community in Faisalabad especially in Waris Pura, the second biggest slum in the city, was scared and many of them fled to their relatives in other towns and villages. The mob threatened that if Rashid and Sajid are not given death sentence they will themselves take revenge not only from the two brothers but from the whole Christian community.

‘Rashid, 32, is a pastor in his own ministry and his brother Sajid is a student of Masters in Business Administration. The charges levied on them are false as no evidence or witness is present. The handwritten photocopied pamphlet is distributed by some unknown people and the names and telephone numbers of Rashid and Sajid are printed in it.

‘The situation is still tense in Waris Pura and Muslim youth is roaming in the streets holding weapons and sticks. Christian community is scared as they remember the Gojra incident last year in which nine Christians were killed and burnt alive and more than 120 homes were completely burnt by a Muslim mob who wanted to give punishment to the Christian community in that area for alleged charges of Blasphemy on one Talib Masih.’

To stand against Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws and to lend support to its current victims, contact Pagaan at:
Atif Jamil Pagaan
Pakistan Minorities Democratic Harmony Foundation

Image: The back page of the poster ‘The Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan’, published by National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)

Update July 19, 2010

Fauzia Rafique

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