ASIA/PAKISTAN - Religious minorities under attack: it is urgent to repeal the blasphemy law

Tuesday, 3 October 2017 blasphemy   islam   christianity   religious minorities   ethnic minorities   justice   hinduism   civil society  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Christian Washaal Masih and his colleague Bhola Ram of Hindu religion, two humble workers, employed in the town of Behawalnagar, in the South of Pakistani Punjab, were arrested for blasphemy, with alleged charges of burning pages of the Koran. As Legal Evangelical Association Development (Lead), which provides free legal assistance to religious minorities in Pakistan, confirms to Fides, the two worked as cleaners in the Civil Hospital in Behawalnagar, where apparently the blasphemy was committed. The complainant is a policeman who claims to have received a phone call from a local journalist: he informed them that the two, in burning some documents, also burnt some pages containing Coranic verses. The incident occurred on September 27, 2017. The policeman reached the scene and saw a large crowd who provided details of the episode. The policeman arrested the two and filed an official complaint.
"The blasphemy law is a very delicate matter: as in this case, two alleged witnesses blamed the two and were accused of blasphemy. But there is no other documentable proof.
Religious minorities live in constant fear and often hide their faith in order to avoid allegations of blasphemy", noted Christian Lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, head of the organization “Lead”.
Lead has issued a public appeal calling for the repeal of the law: "The abuse of this law has become common practice in resolving personal disputes. In a recent case, Christian Nadeem James was involved in a case of blasphemy as revenge for marrying a Muslim girl and was sentenced to death. It is time to do something about this iniquitous law", says a note by Lead, sent to Fides.
In the past 12 years, notes the organization, "the situation has deteriorated for religious minorities in Pakistan". Lead lists the main reasons why it calls for the abolition of the blasphemy law in Pakistan: it is incompatible with fundamental human rights; endangers the security of citizens of every religious faith; steps on the basic civil warfare with regard to arrest and detention, as well as the right to a fair trial; violates the right to freedom of religion, religion and expression; destroys the rule of law and the principle of equality; instigates Muslims to attack religious minorities and their settlements, undermining interreligious coexistence in Pakistani society; it is mainly used to resolve personal disputes.
"In addition, in many cases a citizen, even if only accused of blasphemy, is an easy victim of extrajudicial execution at the hands of radical Islamists", noted "Lead", recalling many episodes in the recent history of Pakistan, where entire Christian areas were attacked (in a sort of "mass punishment") only for alleged blasphemy charges to a single Christian. These attacks, it notes, have remained unpunished. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 3/10/2017)


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