Published on 19 July 2021 in Blasphemy news
The shooting of a man in Jhok Lashkarpur in Pakistan is a continuation of the uncontrolled violence towards those accused of ‘blasphemy’, said the End Blasphemy Laws (EBL) Coalition today.
According to media reports, the man was first accused of “desecrating the Quran” in October 2019. On his way to the court hearing, the accused was reportedly attacked by the complainants’ brother alongside unidentified persons, who shot him five times in his leg. The victim is reportedly out of danger and his hearing is postponed to 12 August.
Pakistan is home to harsh ‘blasphemy’ laws. While ‘blasphemy’ laws are used in all regions of Pakistan, ‘blasphemy’ laws are predominantly used in Punjab.
‘Blasphemy’ is punishable by death under the law. However, those accused of ‘blasphemy’ may face vigilante justice before reaching a court. Such deadly accusations tend to target non-believers, religious minorities, and dissenting Muslims.
The case is not an isolated incident. In July 2020, Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot dead in a courtroom while standing trial for ‘blasphemy’.
Such allegations are, at times, used to settle personal scores and have become extremely difficult for the justice system to handle.
According to the Guardian, “lower-court judges feel unable to acquit defendants for fear of their lives; even a supreme court justice recused himself from a 2016 trial.” The newspaper reported the killing of the then-current governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, and the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti after they called for reform of ‘blasphemy’ laws.
Those accused of ‘blasphemy’ also face challenges in securing legal representation, as lawyers are themselves targeted by religious extremists. Rashid Rehman was defending a university lecturer accused of ‘blasphemy’, the defendant was previously unable to find a lawyer due to the risks.
Rehman, who was the regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, decided to take the case despite receiving death threats. He died in an armed attack on his office in May 2014.
Pakistan’s Penal Code contains multiple ‘blasphemy’ articles:
Article 295-A outlaws “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”; Article 295-B outlaws the defaming of the Quran; Article 295-C bans the use of insulting remarks about the Prophet; Article 298 prohibits people from saying anything that had the deliberate intent to wound religious feelings; and article 298-B punishes any misuse of epithets, descriptions, or titles reserved for certain holy personages or places.
The EBL Coalition calls on the authorities to bring those responsible for this attack to justice, if it hopes to bring an end to the cycle of violence, In addition, the EBL Coalition calls on the Pakistani state to repeal its ‘blasphemy’ laws.