ASIA/PAKISTAN - The blasphemy law needs to be amended: demonstration in Punjab

Monday, 12 May 2014

Faisalabad ( Agenzia Fides) - The government needs to urgently amend the blasphemy law, which has become "a deadly weapon" for human right defenders, journalists, moderate Muslims, members of religious minorities and other innocent people: this is what many civil society organizations, mainly composed of Pakistani Muslims who took to the streets in recent days in Faisalabad ask for. As Fides learns, the impressive demonstration was organized in the aftermath of the brutal murder of the lawyer, Rashid Rehman, coordinator for the Punjab office of the NGO "Human Rights Commission of Pakistan".
"The government should take concrete measures and introduce a mechanism that controls and punishes fundamentalists, who have destroyed peace and social harmony, blindly abusing this law and killing innocent people", said the participants, gathered in the center of city on May 8.
As reported to Fides, all leaders have condemned the murder, expressing grief over the great loss of a courageous defender of human rights, wearing blacks ribbons as a sign of mourning and chanting slogans against terrorism. There is a unanimous request to put an end to the abuse of the blasphemy law and to restore peace in society.
The Muslim Nazia Sardar, leader of the NGO "Awam" (Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation), one of the organizers of the demonstrators, recalled Rashid Rehman as "a man who raised his voice for the protection of human rights and that we will follow as a model". Political activist Arif Ayaz, who is also a Muslim, said: "Many innocent people have been killed since the blasphemy law has been in force. The assassination of Rashid Rehman demonstrates the failure of the government to protect its citizens. The government needs to reform the blasphemy law and promote a transparent judicial system". The director of "National Minorities Alliance Pakistan", Robin Denial, concluded: "Extremists are trying to scare and challenge the work of human right defenders like Rehman. But his blood will generate many new human right defenders in Pakistan". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/05/2014)