Pakistan’s long beleaguered ethnic and religious minorities and sects keep facing new challenges. Just recently on January 17, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023.
While the stated aim of said bill is to “curb sectarianism” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is concerned that the bill will “likely exacerbate the persecution” of Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minorities.
According to a statement released by HRCP “The proposed legislation increases the punishment for using derogatory remarks against holy persons—including the Prophet (PBUH)’s family, wives and companions, and the four caliphs—from three years with a fine to imprisonment for life ‘which will not be less than ten years’. The bill also makes the offence non-bailable, thereby directly violating the constitutionally guaranteed right to personal liberty under Article 9.”
Further, “Given Pakistan’s troubled record of the misuse of such laws, these amendments are likely to be weaponised disproportionately against religious minorities and sects, resulting in false FIRs, harassment and persecution. Moreover, increasing the penalty for alleged blasphemy will aggravate misuse of the law to settle personal vendettas, as is often the case with blasphemy allegations.”
HRCP warns that “At a time when civil society has been calling for amendments to these laws to prevent their abuse, strengthening this punishment will do the exact opposite.”