Pakistan ranks as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to religious freedom and human rights. The country’s blasphemy laws are some of the harshest in the world and no government has been able to take any action on this front.
The registration of a recent blasphemy case against four members of a family from a village on the outskirts of Lahore once again brought into focus the misuse of these laws “to settle personal scores and grab victims’ property or attack their beliefs. The latest case registered on the complaint of a local prayer leader, who was approached by a family member more than a week ago to make a public announcement about the funeral of a Christian neighbour, also underscores the police’s tendency to register a case without investigation into allegations in order to keep the situation under control.”
According to the Dawn, “at least 1,855 people were booked under the blasphemy law between 1987 and 2020. This includes formal charges as well as allegations. The actual number of victims, however, is believed to be much higher. Muslims (47.9pc) represent the largest faith identity accused of or charged with blasphemy followed by Ahmadis (33.3pc), Christians (14.5pc), Hindus (1.8pc) and others (2.4pc).”
As an editorial in Dawn notes, “We have seen people falsely convicted, lynched, shot and knifed to death, and mob attacks on entire communities merely on the suspicion of blasphemy, with most culprits getting away scot-free. The murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer by a member of his security detail in 2011 for supporting changes in the law to stop its misuse is justly referred to as a watershed in the country’s history. The abuse of the law against the innocent, as pointed out by the Supreme Court, is impossible to stop in the absence of “adequate safeguards against [its] misapplication or misuse … by motivated persons”. It’s time for politicians to stand up to defend the vulnerable from the law’s misuse.”