South Asia

Pakistan Senate calls for punishments for false “blasphemy” allegations

Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab who was shot dead after raising the plight of Aasia Bibi. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Punishments should be imposed for false ‘blasphemy’ allegations, according to a key recommendation from the Pakistan Senate’s influential Special Committee on Human Rights earlier this month. The Committee also said that anyone wishing to register a case of blasphemy with the police should bring multiple witnesses.

Lawmakers stressed however that they were “not trying to make changes” to the “blasphemy” laws, but only to prevent misuse; the laws are repeatedly exploited to target Christians and also used to settle personal grudges.

The calls from the Senate committee were openly challenged by one member from the Islamist Jamiat Ulema Islam party, who described them as “an attempt to sabotage the blasphemy law”.  Previous suggestions that the laws would be amended have led to violent street protests.

In 2016, riots broke out in Islamabad when a police guard who had murdered a politician who advocated reforming the “blasphemy” laws received the death penalty.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab was shot dead in 2011. He had highlighted the case of Aasia Bibi, who is still in prison on death row, having been sentenced to death for “blasphemy” in 2010.