Published On: Fri, Jul 1st, 2011

Blasphemy Laws Still A Concern In Pakistan, supporters of change killed

The blasphemy law in Pakistan continues to be an intense debate as another person is sentenced to death for allegedly defiling Islam’s prophet, Khalid Khattak reports, as detailed by Index Censorship.

Abdul Sattar, 29, was sentenced to death on June 21 causing the country’s laws to garner  international and national media attention. Last November Asia Bibi’s arrest and sentencing was called into question and attracted condemnation from human rights campaigners and from Pakistan’s Christian minority.

The noted that Governor of Pakistan’s province Punjab Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated earlier this year in separate incidents. They both supported Asia Bibi and made efforts to secure her release.

“These are not isolated incidents: over the years, many people have been killed and received threats over charges of blasphemy and for siding with those charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. There is a level of threat attached even when opposing false blasphemy charges,” Index on Censorship stated.

“Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan and the maximum punishment is death or life imprisonment. Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) is related to blasphemy. However it is sub-section C of Section 295, introduced in 1986, which is one of the hottest points of debate both inside and outside Pakistan — until 1986 maximum punishment for the crime was limited to imprisonment for ten years.”

Asia Bibi Image/BPCA

Asia Bibi

The Section 295-C stipulates: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Not a single person sentenced to death for blasphemy by Pakistani courts has ever been executed, but over the years the number of those killed while on blasphemy charges has risen.

According to one report, 801 of the 1,031 people imprisoned under blasphemy laws in Pakistan are Muslim. The report also claims that a number of blasphemy cases are registered to implicate innocent people “out of personal vendetta.”

Human rights groups call for repeal of blasphemy laws and protest against their abuse. Parliamentarian has now withdrawn the bill, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has also made it clear that “the government would not support any move to amend the law.”

Check out their full report HERE

Follow the long and storied trial of Asia Bibi with coverage here on the Global Dispatch – click here for a list of stories

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