Blasphemy Laws must be repealed for Freedom of Expression and Religious Liberty in Pakistan. By Sardar Mushtaq Gill, HRD Lawyer

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A man identified as Saleem is given death sentence and fined Rs.200, 000/- under section 295-C PPC in the Court of Additional sessions judge Faizul Hassan, Lahore, in June 2019. He was accused of uttering blasphemous comments in public place in Lohari Gate, Lahore in 2016.Reportedly 12 eye-witnesses had recorded evidences against Saleem. Six of eye-witnesses had been recorded in court in the present of the accused, while the other six were recorded via video link as half trial of the case had been conducted in the court, and the other half via video link while the accused remained in Camp Jail due to security concerns.

Last year in December two Christian real brothers were awarded death sentence under section 295-C PPC by Judge Javed Iqbal Bosal of Talagang District Jhelum. They were accused of uploading blasphemous contents on their website about which Qaisar has said he closed his account in 2009 but that a Muslim friend somehow had been able to take the website back online while keeping it in Qaiser’s name. In 2011 Qaisar, following a quarrel at his office, started to receive death threats and the brothers had to flee the country to seek asylum in Thailand. They were arrested on charges of blasphemy upon return four years later. Since their arrest in 2014, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub had been held in District Jail Jhelum, allegedly posting “Blasphemous contents” on their website.

In Pakistan people are killed, imprisoned, tortured, kidnapped, and otherwise victimized because of what they believe other than majority believe. Christians are the most vulnerable portion of the Pakistani society because of their weak self-defense against the persecution at both national and international forums and particularly because of their population ratio and poverty.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws foster an environment of intolerance and impunity, and lead to violations of a broad range of human rights, including the obvious rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as well as freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to due process and a fair trial; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and the right to life and security of the person and property.

It was reported that blasphemy law will be abolished in Greece from 1 July 2019 under changes to the country’s criminal code, in a huge step forward for the global campaign to end harsh blasphemy laws. LEAD-Legal Evangelical Association Development is hopeful that Pakistan can be included in the countries of abolishing blasphemy laws within years’ campaign that wouldn’t have happened without pressure from groups that support the freedom of speech, including speech that some may find offensive.

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