ASIA/PAKISTAN - Blasphemy in Pakistan, data on victims: who will pay off all the suffering?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The blasphemy law continues to claim victims in Pakistan and religious minorities are the most vulnerable. According to the data collected by an NGO network in Pakistan "Awaz-e-Haq Itehad" (AHI) and sent to Agenzia Fides, 1,438 people were accused of blasphemy between 1987 and October 2014. This data shows that religious minorities which form less than 4% of the population figure make about 50% of those accused of blasphemy (Ahmadis 501, Christians 182, Hindus 26 – the religion of 10 victims could not be ascertained). Among the 60 people who were killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990: 32 were religious minorities and 28 Muslims. 20 of the total were either attacked in police custody or killed by policemen while 19 were killed in mob attacks.
The province of Punjab is the locus of the monumental abuse of human rights where 1,086 or 76% - incidents took place. 21% took place in Sindh. About 1,097 houses were looted and damaged in the districts of Khanewal, Sangla Hill, Kasur, Gojra and Lahore. Seventeen churches in Khanewal and Korian, along with 10 schools and hostels were put on fire in different attacks linked to accusations of blasphemy between 1997 and 2013.
Commenting on the figures, the Catholic activist Peter Jacob, former Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said in a statement sent to Fides: "The incidents of alleged blasphemy have also had an impact on the vulnerability of lawyers and judges, as well as on the accused and their families". "Each incident of alleged blasphemy - he explains - forms a chain of injustices where each step leads to more violence and legal injustice. The routine administrative measures and the judicial system have failed terribly in stopping these systematic violations of human rights".
"Governments - says Jacob - have been quick to provide emergency response in most cases, with monetary compensations or reconstruction of houses.
On the victim’s side, prolonged litigations, detentions, court expenditures, loss of livelihood, temporary and permanent displacement of thousands of families are accompanying circumstances that are extremely crushing. Who pays for all this? Who and how can one pay off all this suffering?". There is a general climate of impunity: too many inquiries, such as that of Gojra, ended in nothing.
In many countries of the world blasphemy is treated as a criminal offence, keeping the punishment mostly to fines and penalties. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2014)