Pakistan: Human rights body demands repeal of blasphemy laws, setting prisoners free

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Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) has demanded the repeal of the blasphemy laws and to stop the practice of victimization in Pakistan.

The registered cases, either imprisoned or not, have reached a whopping number of around 3,000 while the non-registered cases are more and both categories are most scary, have relocated and finding protection within the country or other parts of the land.

The prisoners should be set free, the protections of non-registered should be ensured, HRFP has demanded, according to an official release.

HRFP, on the basis of its recent findings and investigations has urged authorities of Pakistan that at least 1472 individuals were charged under the blasphemy cases from 1987 to 2016 with 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadiyas, 187 Christians, 21 Hindus and others.

"The numbering of registered cases has reached around 3000 in 2023 because of increasing average during the last 5 to 7 years while the non-registered are doubled. The data shows that until October 2019, 17 people convicted of blasphemy were on death row, while many others are serving life sentences for related offenses (295 A/B/C), and as per media reports since 1990 to 2019 at least 65 people have been murdered over claims of blasphemy," the HRFP said in an official press release.

AdvtOnly in 2021 at least 90 and in 2022 around 100 individuals faced blasphemy threats either at workplaces or during fields activities. From registered and non-registered cases only few got bails, and got a chance to flee and relocated in other places but the all are facing threats all the time even imprisoned or not, the release added.

Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) stated that the laws in Pakistan have been misused against religious minorities as soft targets and innocents of all religions even to Muslims as well, that enables and encourages the perpetrators for legal discrimination and persecution on the name of religion and beliefs.

When a Christian, Hindu, or other member of a religious minority is attacked, the entire family and community may also come under attack, according to Naveed Walter, the President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP). In the past, there are examples when whole minorities' communities have been set on fire, like in Gojra in 2009 and in Joseph Colony, Lahore in 2013.

Naveed Walter president HRFP said that the recent example of an imprisoned from last 4 years is of Noman Masih a Christian youth of 22, the local court on 2 June 2023 in Pakistan's Bahawalpur has sentenced him to death and imposed a fine of PKR 200,000 for allegedly sharing blasphemous content through WhatsApp.

Musarrat Bibi from Pakpattan who was alleged with coworker Muhammad Sarmad for burning Quranic pages on 15 April 2023. Both got bails but the threats did not come to an end as like the two nurses Mariam and Neush case of Faisalabad who falsely alleged to blasphemy on 8 April 2021, imprisoned and got bails, Naveed Walter added, as per the HRFP release.

There are case studies of non-registered like James Masih, a Christian sanitary worker in Tehsil Headquarter (THQ) hospital Layyah was charged for blasphemy on 5 October 2022 by local Muslim woman Nazia during a conflict of medical examined from doctor Maqsood where James Masih was performing his duties.

Nazia provoked people by her video on social media to kill James Masih and family alleging that he spoke against Prophet Muhammad and harassed her as well. Jackson Sohails case is also one of the non-registered cases who belonged to Faisalabad and on 13 October 2022 he was alleged for blasphemy when he was at workplace in Lahore and had a conflict with colleague there. The normal lives are harder for all categories, HRFP added.

Naveed Walter said that the mob attacks and targeted attacks are common in these cases. He mentioned Ashok Kumar a sanitation worker of Hyderabad who was accused of burning the Qur'an in August last year when a violent mob attempted to kill him but police arrested him before reaching of mob to get him.

Similarly, a Hindu teacher who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a local court on 8 February 2022 over charges of blasphemy in Ghotki, Sindh was also a survivor of mob attack.

Naveed Walter said the recent other series of murdering minorities in multiple issues are not coming to an end but have been increasing day by day.

"On 6 May 2023 a Sikh man Paramjit Singh Panjwar has murdered in Lahore. On 12 April 2023 Pervaiz Masih a Christian was shot to dead in Turbat. On 31 March 2023 Dayal Singh a Sikh businessman in Peshawar was murdered and a year before Dayal Singh's cousins Kuljit Singh and Ranjit Singh were murdered in Peshawar.

On 30 March 2023 Dr. Birbal Genani, a Hindu doctor was murdered in Karachi. On 7 March 2023 Dr.Dharam Dev Rathi was killed in Hyderabad. These are the few examples of this half year," Naveed Walter added.

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