Published On: Mon, Jan 23rd, 2017

CLAAS requests prayers for the Pakistani politicians initiating a debate to amend the blasphemy law

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK has sent a special request to churches and individuals, asking them to pray for Senator Farhatullah Baber and other members of the Senate Committee on Human Rights in Pakistan, who are discussing and aiming to stop the abuse of the blasphemy law.

This fresh attempt to discuss this matter in the House, comes a decade after minority MP Mr Bhandara presented a private bill in 2007 seeking amendment in the blasphemy law.

However the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi was too critical of the bill and said the move would only hurt the feelings of Muslims and asked the speaker not to put such bills on the agenda of the house.

Niazi also informed the House that according to the Constitution, “No law shall be enacted which is repugnant to Islamic injunctions and this is not a secular but an Islamic state.”

photo Applysense

In 2010 PPP’s parliamentarian, Sherry Rehman presented a bill to amend the blasphemy law, and she was even threatened with death before finally being forced to withdraw the bill.

In 2011 Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was murdered by his own bodyguard for supporting a poor Christian lady, Aasia Bibi, and opposing the blasphemy law. Later in the same year, the only Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by the Taliban for demanding amendments in the same law.

Since then nobody has dared to seek changes in the blasphemy law.

However, now that Senator Farhatullah Baber is trying to get blasphemy law reform, we should pray that the shield of prayer protects him and all other members who are discussing possible changes to the blasphemy law.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law has a mandatory death penalty, and although no sentence has been carried out, several innocent people have been killed by vigilantes.  Poor, uneducated Christians are often targeted and falsely accused of blasphemy to settle personal scores. Churches are attacked, and Christian villages and towns are set on fire, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice.

The misuse of the blasphemy continues to rise against Christians and other religious minorities. Christians feel insecure and are living in fear for their lives. They are even fleeing Pakistan because the government and politicians appear to lack the will to debate this law in parliament and amend it accordingly. Hundreds have been languishing in jails for years for crimes they have never committed. Aasia Bibi who has been on death row since 2009 after being convicted of blasphemy by a local court, is perhaps the most well-known example of the way these laws have been used to target minorities.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been criticised severely by international bodies and observers, as well as voices from within Pakistan who have called for the repealing of the controversial laws. But the calls have been falling on the deaf ears of the government.

Blasphemy laws clearly violate international human rights like a right to life, freedom of belief or religion, freedom of speech and conscience, and therefore there is a great need to bring Pakistani law in line with international treaties ratified by the Pakistani government.

It is a time for all of us who oppose the blasphemy law in Pakistan to pray for the protection of those seeking to amend it, and to pray that this time the committee’s endeavours are fruitful and the government agrees to amend the blasphemy law accordingly to stop its continuous and growing misuse, as Pakistani Christians consider this law a main cause of their persecution.


Asia Bibi

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About the Author

- Director CLAAS-UK About CLAAS: Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) is an interdenominational organisation working for Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan. CLAAS works for religious freedom, to stop persecution of Christians in Pakistan because of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, raise awareness, disseminate information and highlight the plight of Christians on an international level. CLAAS provides free legal aid to victims of religious intolerance in Pakistan, as well as shelter and financial support for the victims and their families.

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