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Call for repeal of Pakistani blasphemy law

13 December 2019

PA

An Easter service in St John’s Cathedral, Peshawar, in Pakistan

An Easter service in St John’s Cathedral, Peshawar, in Pakistan

CHRISTIANS in Pakistan are ten times more likely to be accused of blasphemy than other members of the population, Release International has said.

It is more than six months since Asia Bibi was released from death row in Pakistan. Mrs Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with her neighbours at a well (News, 19 November 2010). She was acquitted by the Supreme Court in October 2018 (News, 31 October 2018). The decision, which sparked an appeal after protests in Pakistan by Islamic extremists, was later upheld. In May, Mrs Bibi, who is Roman Catholic and has five children, left Pakistan and arrived in Canada (News, 10 May).

There are currently 80 people imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reports.

Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians, said: “Given that Christians make up just two per cent of the population [in Pakistan], the numbers charged are disproportionately high. Christians are ten times more likely to be accused of religious offences in Pakistan.”

He continued: “The blasphemy laws have been used to make false allegations against Christians, often to settle scores. Just to accuse someone of blasphemy can light a fuse that leads to murder. The blasphemy laws are weapons of religious discrimination. They must be repealed.”

The National Commission for Justice and Peace reports that 1170 people were prosecuted on charges of blasphemy between 1987 and 2012.

The latest report on Pakistan from Humanists International states: “The legal environment in Pakistan is notably repressive; it has brutal blasphemy laws, systemic and legislative religious discrimination and often allows vigilante violence on religious grounds to occur with impunity.”

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