Published on 24 June 2020 in Blasphemy news
On 6 June 2020, the Punjab Assembly ordered through a resolution that the government immediately ban several books deemed to contain ‘blasphemous’ content. The resolution also calls for all copies of the books to be removed from the market. The resolution reads, “These books not only hurt our sentiments but also are an attack on our faith”.
At the time of writing, exactly what of the content was viewed as ‘blasphemous’ in the books The First Muslim (2013) and After the Prophet (2009) by Lesley Hazleton and Short History of Islam (1977) by Mazhar-ul-Haq for their allegedly ‘blasphemous’ content. Nor was it immediately clear what had provoked the Punjab Assembly to make the resolution so long after the books had been published.
While the government has yet to respond to the resolution formally, the initiative has reportedly been welcomed by several individuals, including Members of Parliament and the leader of the opposition in Punjab, Hamza Shahbaz, for taking up the matter of ‘blasphemous’ publications. According to Urdu Point, MP Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan said that it is important to apprehend individuals involved in the publication and distribution of ‘blasphemous’ content.
Pakistan’s Penal Code contains numerous articles concerning “offences related to religion” which are used predominantly in the Punjab province. The ‘blasphemy’ laws in Pakistan can carry the death penalty or life in prison. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – which it ratified in 2010 – including its obligations to realize the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, personal integrity, equality before the law and freedom from discrimination.
The International Coalition Against Blasphemy is committed to ensuring the repeal of blasphemy laws wherever they exist as they run counter to inalienable human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression. While the freedom of thought and belief is also a human right, there is no fundamental right not to be offended in one’s religious feelings.