South Asia

High Court in Pakistan suggest amendment in Blasphemy Law

A court in Pakistan has highlighted the misuse of the blasphemy law for personal vengeance and suggested that the law be amended in its verdict of 11 August 2017.

The Islamabad High Court asked the government to make changes in the controversial blasphemy law by fixing tougher punishment for anybody falsely accusing someone of the crime, which summonses punishment by death.

The suggestion was made by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in a 116-page detailed judgment which included stringent measures to eliminate blasphemous content from social media. He suggested that the same punishment be imposed on them who make these false allegations on others.

Nasir Saeed the Director of CLAAS-UK welcoming the High Court’s judgement told Global Christian News, “It is very unfortunate that despite being aware of the misuse of the law by people to take revenge and settle personal scores, with the very recent example of Mashal Khan, the government has failed to bring this law to parliament and amend it appropriately.

“Although there is a long-standing demand from human rights organisations to repeal this law which is being widely misused, because of the government inadvertence it has become a very sensitive issue and even demanding change in the blasphemy law is considered blasphemy itself.

“But this is another opportunity for the government to bring this matter to parliament and have a debate to reach some positive conclusion.”

Under the existing law, the person falsely accusing the other person faces proceedings under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Section 182 entails the maximum punishment of six months or a fine of up to Rupees 1,000 only.

Justice Siddiqui highlighted as to how people evened their personal grudges by dragging their rivals into blasphemy cases endangering the life of not only the accused person but all his family members and relatives.

“To stop its misuse, the government needs to introduce tough punishments for false accusers as the current punishment is very minor, especially as most of the time people take the law into their own hands and decide the fate of the accused, which normally leads to the killing of innocent people,” said Saeed of CLAAS.

Justice Siddiqui pointed out that due to the misuse of the law critics even demanded abolishing the law. He said that it was better to stop exploitation of the law rather than abolishing it.

“Admittedly, not a single convict whether Muslim or non- Muslim has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan,” the judgment added.

Besides, the court directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to create a firewall to block unwanted and sacrilegious content in Pakistan reported The Free Press Journal.

The court is said to have acknowledged the steps taken by the federal government to eliminate such content from the social media. It, however, directed the interior ministry and other departments concerned to vigorously take up the matter with the Facebook management reported the site.

The court also said that in case, the Facebook management does not remove the indecent content and revered personalities, the website may be banned completely in Pakistan, the verdict said.

Blasphemy laws were introduced in 1980’s and since then no change has been made.

According to the figures in Wikipedia, from 1987 to 2014, over 1,300 people have been accused of blasphemy, Muslims constitute the majority of those booked under these laws.

Over 60 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered before their respective trials were over, and prominent figures who opposed the blasphemy law have been assassinated. Since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations.