Blasphemy Law Tweak Will Create Room For Persecution, Warns HRCP

Blasphemy Law Tweak Will Create Room For Persecution, Warns HRCP
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed its concerns over an amendment in the blasphemy law, which aims at enhancing the punishment for disrespect of sacred personalities.

On Tuesday (Jan 17), the National Assembly approved legislation to increasing the punishment for those defaming Ummahatul Momineen (wives of the Holy Prophet PBUH, ‘mothers of the faithful’), Ahl-e-Bait (members of the Holy Prophet’s PBUH household), Khulafa-e-Rashideen (the four ‘righteous’ caliphs of Islam) and Sahaba-e-Karaam (companions of the Holy Prophet PBUH) up to ‘life imprisonment’ and not less than ten years’ rigorous imprisonment.

"While the stated aim of this bill is to curb sectarianism, HRCP believes it is likely to exacerbate the persecution of Pakistan’s beleaguered religious minorities and minority sects," read a statement from HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani.

Jilani noted that the bill also made the offence non-bailable, thus directly violating the constitutionally guaranteed right to personal liberty under Article 9 of the Constitution.

The chairperson feared that the law would likely be 'weaponised' against religious minorities and sects, resulting in false FIRs, harassment and persecution, given the troubled record of its misuse."

The HRCP stressed that increasing the penalty for alleged blasphemy will aggravate misuse of the law to settle personal vendettas, as is often the case with the allegations.

"At a time when civil society is calling for amendments to the laws to prevent their abuse, strengthening this punishment will do the exact opposite," Jilani maintained.

The bill’s proposer Abdul Akbar Chitrali appreciated the house for increasing the punishment. He said the punishment for disrespecting these sacred religious personalities was “almost nil” before the legislation on it.

Due to the earlier “simple punishment”, the criminals commit the same crime again and again in spite of the punishment. He argued that due to the little punishment, people would try to punish such criminals on their own, which would lead to mob violence and 'vigilante justice’.

Chairing the session, deputy speaker Zahid Akram Durrani termed passage of the bill “historic” and congratulated all parliamentarians present. He said that implementation of the law would help prevent the heinous crime of blasphemy in the country.