Monday, 24 November 2014

The Worst Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in Pakistan By Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Human Rights Defender and Chief of LEAD

PAKISTAN: On 4 November, 2014, I was informed by Qaiser Younas, a Court Clerk of LEAD, who was staying with his aunt at her home very next to Chak No.59, a charged Muslim mob about 1500 gathered from surrounding five villages after hearing the announcement from different Mosques’ loudspeakers and the mob attacked a young Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama, after accusing them of desecration of Quranic pages and later burnt them alive in the brick kiln where they worked. The couple had three minors.


I reached the scene where incident taken place at Chak No.59 near a town of District Kasur, Kot Radha kishan, some 60 Kilometers southwest of Lahore and collected some facts about the brutal and inhuman killing of the Christian husband and wife which was the latest example of mob violence against Christian accused of blasphemy.


The whole world is deeply shocked and scandalized over the lynching of the Christian couple which highlights the need for urgent repeal of laws that are routinely used to persecute Christians and other minorities and to settle the personal grudges. The country’s controversial blasphemy laws, put in place in 1986 under General Zia Ul Haq rĂ©gime, are in focus once again.






Last year in March, On pretext to blasphemy, the Muslim mob attacked Joseph Colony in Badami Bagh Lahore and set on fire more than hundred homes of Christians after Sawan Masih, a Christian resident of Joseph Colony Lahore was accused of blasphemy on March 7, 2013, when a Muslim youth accused him of derogatory remarks against Muslim’s Prophet Mohammad during an argument among them when they were playing and drinking. 


Rimsha Masih was arrested in blasphemy on 16 August, 2012 in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning the Qur'an's pages.

She was held in jail before getting bail, but the cleric was later accused of fabricating evidence and the case against the girl was dropped and later the cleric too was released that focused international attention on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws. She got refuge in Canada with her family after spending months in hiding.

In 2010, the whole world was deeply shocked and concerned over Asia Bibi’s death sentence for blasphemy, ordered by a local court in Pakistan. The Concerned persons and human rights defenders said the case of Asia Bibi, the first Catholic Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, highlighted the need for urgent repeal of laws that were and are being used to persecute minorities and to settle personal vendettas.


On 16 October, 2014, the ruling by the special bench consisting of Justice Anwar Ul Haq and Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi of Lahore High Court was not unexpected. Acquittals are rare in blasphemy cases, in part because the pressure exerted by extremists. She is on death row since November, 2010 and languishing in jail from her arrest. Her case drew global criticism in 2011 when Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for supporting her and by opposing blasphemy laws.

Her husband Ashaq Masih told that she became disappointed after the ruling of Lahore High court. He further told that she remained weeping and worried all time because she was hopeful for her acquittal and release from jail. Her husband Ashiq Masih has asked by writing an open letter to Pakistan's president to overturn his wife's death sentence for blasphemy. And Today,Asia Bibi's appeal has been filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

At this stage when national and international human rights organizations, Churches, and even Pakistani English print media keeping alive the issue and discussion of repeal or amend of draconian blasphemy law because it is routinely being misused against Christians by the hands of extremists.

 "The Asiya case raises the fundamental question of how Pakistan’s minorities have been left unprotected since the passage of the blasphemy law. There may have been no hangings on account of the law but it has facilitated the spread of intolerance and populist rage against minorities, often leading to deaths" Naseem Zehra, The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2010.


Background and History of Blasphemy Laws:


The blasphemy laws are form of legalized discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities. This is a naked sword in the hands of extremists by which the affected include individuals seen to be questioning the state-sanctioned religious doctrine, heterodox Islamic sects, Christians, and followers of traditional indigenous beliefs. The demographic breakdown of blasphemy defendants in Pakistan represents a prime example of selective application. Although Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus make up less than 3 percent of the country’s population, they have accounted for about half of the blasphemy defendants in Pakistan over the past two decades, according to some estimates.

The blasphemy law was enacted by the British to protect the religious sentiments of the Muslim minorities in the subcontinent against the Hindu majority but here in Pakistan, these laws are for to persecute religious minorities and to restrict them to preach their religious faith. That’s why after the creation of Pakistan as the Muslims were no more a minority, the law should have been abolished, but it was made more stringent rather than to abolish; Section 295-A was enacted in 1927 (Pakistan Penal Code). In 1980, Section 298-A was inserted. In 1982, Section 295-B was introduced. In 1986, Section 295-C was legislated. In 1991, life imprisonment was replaced with the mandatory death penalty in the Section 295-C by The Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan.
When the blasphemy laws were not harsh and their purpose was to save the religious minorities faith from majority the Muslims were tolerant towards the non-Muslim minorities, the latter remained mindful of the religious feelings of the former. As the majority grew intolerant towards the minorities and the capital punishment was incorporated in the law, then the cases of blasphemy started occurring more frequently. From 1948-1979, 11 cases of blasphemy were registered. Only three were reported from 1979-1986. Forty-four cases were filed from 1987-1999. In 2000, 52 cases were registered.

After Jinnah’s death, the ruling elite embraced the Machiavellian politics of the colonial rulers and divided the nation on religious, sectarian and ethnic basis. The blasphemy law is an integral part of this baleful politics that has made Pakistan a deeply divided society. History is full of incidents that remind us of the great love, amity, unity, and affinity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims but after occurring 9/11 the situation turned love to hate.
Every other day we hear reports of someone being charged of blasphemy and the judges on duty award death sentence to such people when the charges are proven. In Pakistan the blasphemy law has often been used for to settle personal scores.
President General Musharraf had announced for the amendment of this law but later he had to back out. The higher court have not endorsed death sentence in any blasphemy case so far but the extremists have been misusing this law to harass the minorities. Even if the allegations prove false the person leveling such charges is not punished. Whenever such an incident takes place it harms Pakistan’s image in general. Religious fanaticism is very common in Pakistan and because of absence of a political process people tend to use force and gun for settling the issues.
General Zia regime and his legacy headed by Pakistan Muslim League created an environment in which murder in the name of Islam became a legitimate act. A number of innocent people have been charged with blasphemy and killed in the name of Islam. It is a fact that no sensible and sane person can ever think of doing any such derogatory thing against other faith and religious figure. Personal enmities can clearly be seen behind in these blasphemy cases. We find “personal enmities”, “fictitious stories” and “planning” behind the massacre in Shantinagar, Gojra, Sambrial and Bahmniwal and Joseph Colony, Lahore. The gory drama of murder and arson staged in Shantinagar is still alive in the memories of the local people. In Gojra, Shantinagar and Joseph Colony, Lahore the houses of Christians were set on fire, churches were demolished, hostels for boys and girls were destroyed and thousands of copies of the Holy Bible were burnt right in the presence of the police. In Gojra innocent Women Children’s and even animals burnt alive. People have been killed and stoned to death in our country using the section of law 295 C and on 4 November a Christian husband and wife was roasted by using the section 295-B. How many houses have been destroyed to get a house in the heavens?
The blasphemy laws were legislated and subsequently made stricter to ensure protection to the minorities. But their blatant abuse has shown that even the Muslims were becoming victim of these laws. The most recent example is provided in Bahawalpur when in a harrowing incident of mob justice; hundreds of people accused a ‘deranged’ man of sacrilege, mercilessly beat him and burnt him alive in southern Punjab and other gory murder of young Christian boy Fanish Robert in Sialkot jail.
 Here I also want to mention Yusuf Kizab murder in the Kot Lakhpat Jail by an activist of the banned Sipahe-i-Sahaba. Yusuf had been sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws. Manzoor Masih was gunned and killed outside the District and Sessions Court after exiting a hearing in April, 1994. Salamat and Rehmat Masih got injured but survived and later they were migrated from Pakistan after acquittal. The worst example was the suicide of Father John Joseph on May 6, 1998. Dr Joseph, the Bishop of Faisalabad, committed suicide in front of the Sessions Court, Sahiwal to protest against the death sentence of a Christian Ayub Masih, pronounced by the court under the blasphemy law.
According to some estimates, in 2009, 112 cases were registered under the blasphemy laws. Of the 112 persons, 57 were identified as Ahmadis, 47 Muslims, and eight Christians. There have been an estimated 1,274 people charged under the blasphemy laws between 1986 till 2010 according to reports.
           
The Majority routinely used blasphemy laws to harass religious minorities and vulnerable and to settle personal scores or business rivalries or just to blackmail them. State’s authorities detained and convicted individuals on spurious charges. Judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid confrontation with or violence from extremists, often continued trials indefinitely. Some extremists are using these blasphemy laws to stop and hurdle the preaching of other faith in Pakistan then Islam. They are also using it as threatening instrument against Christians and other religious minorities.

 The worst  impact of blasphemy laws on religious liberty and human rights; Individuals have fabricated charges of blasphemy against others in their communities to settle petty disputes and the Religious extremists have exploited blasphemy laws to justify attacks on religious minorities, thereby fostering an environment of intolerance where discrimination is effectively condoned by the state.

In Pakistan, there are abundant examples of the use of blasphemy laws to crack down on religious minorities that are deemed “deviant” or “heretical” offshoots of Islam.
Human Rights campaigners have long criticized the country’s blasphemy laws for being unduly harsh, arguing that they are regularly exploited by extremists to target and discriminate against minority groups, and misused by others to settle petty disputes or exact for their personal vengeance.
The blasphemy laws can be found in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), section XV, Articles 295–298 under the heading of Offences Relating To Religion. They address a number of offences, including defiling a place of worship, damaging the Holly Quran, and what amounts to apostasy. Perpetrators face possible fines, short-term or life imprisonment, and even the death penalty; while several individuals have been sentenced to death for blasphemy, no one has yet been executed for the blasphemy. The majority of cases of blasphemy filed in Pakistan fall under Articles 295 or 298 of the PPC. These are the most stringent provisions in section XV, and the least compatible with International Legal Standards.


According to data compiled by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and cited by the US State Department, a total of 695 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan between 1986 and April 2006. Of those, 362 were Muslims, 239 were Ahmadis, 86 were Christians, and 10 were Hindus. The Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn has reported that some 5,000 cases were registered from 1984 to 2004 and 964 people were charged with blasphemy.
The Becket Fund for Religious liberty has described how blasphemy laws force “the state to determine which religious viewpoints may be expressed, thus putting states in the business of judging the truth claims of religions.”
Kate Allen UK Director of Amnesty International, said,” Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas.”
Though the PPC had always featured provisions addressing offences to religion, the Islam-specific articles were adopted only in 1982. And the punishments for blasphemy and other religious offences were amended during the Zia administration to include the possibility of life imprisonment and the death penalty. Most of these changes were made by presidential decree. 

The drift away from pluralism in Pakistan has had severe consequences for minorities and their religious freedom in general. It has created an atmosphere that encourages intolerance, violence, extremism ,terrorism  and the increased influence of religious extremists in the political system has compromised the ability of lower-level judges, police, and government officials to uphold pluralistic values. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of extra-judicial killing of Christians accused of blasphemy outside court compounds, inside court building and in jail by extremists Muslims who were never  brought to justice. That’s why the Muslim mobs have targeted Christian life and property on pretext to blasphemy laws by setting on fire hundreds of Christian homes and burning alive to Christian children, women and elderly men in different cities of Pakistan. The Muslim Police Officers who facilitated such mob attacks were promoted by the Government while the culprits walking free on streets.


I say, “It is the responsibility of the elected politicians to provide the law and order without which no judiciary can work. Today, for instance, a judge in the districts dare not release the victims of blasphemy for fear of being harmed by violent mullahs. The influence of religious extremists has also prevented both elected and unelected governments from working to amend or repeal harmful laws in any substantive way.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former military ruler Pervez Musharraf both expressed their commitment to amend the Islamic blasphemy laws, but backtracked in the face of demonstrations by extremists and pressure from Muslim clerics. Under Musharraf, who ruled from 1999 to 2008, a new amendment was made police to investigate blasphemy allegations before making an arrest, but this rule is rarely observed in practice.

The right to a fair trial is an essential right in all countries which respect the rule of law. Pakistan has signed and ratified a number of international treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights yet is not upholding rights recognized by the core human rights instruments of the UN. But in blasphemy cases the right of fair trial is violated due to external pressure of Extremists and members of banned Islamic organizations.  As in the case of Manzoor Masih, Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti was assassinated in his chambers at Lahore High Court. The killer of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti was captured and said he killed the judge because he was on the bench that acquitted two Christian men, Salamat and Rehmat Masih in a blasphemy case.

The blasphemy laws in Section XV of the PPC are quite expansive. In addition to prohibiting expression that is intended to wound “religious feelings,” and deliberate or malicious acts intended to “outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” the blasphemy laws specifically prohibit defiling the Quran and insulting the prophet Muhammad or any of his wives, family, or companions. The “misuse of epithets, descriptions, and titles, etc.” that is reserved for “holy personages or places” is also prohibited.
These laws were added to the PPC between 1980 and 1986, with the most stringent amendment being adopted in 1986. Article 295(C) made it an offence punishable by life imprisonment or death to use any derogatory language about the prophet Muhammad. In 1991, the Federal Shariat Court ruled that the punishment for this offence should be harsher, and Article 295(C) was amended to make the death penalty mandatory for individuals convicted of making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad.
Discordance with International Law:
                                                  
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are incompatible with international human rights standards not only because they impose undue restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and other human rights, but also because they are discriminatory in their effect. Moreover, they lack the necessary safeguards against abuse, providing no clear definition of what constitutes blasphemy, weak evidentiary standards for convictions in lower courts, and there is no mens rea (criminal intent) required to approve the offence. No specific number of witnesses is required. No explicit definition of blasphemy is required.

This makes it possible for the laws to be exploited to persecute minorities or exact revenge in personal disputes. The blasphemy laws have also been invoked to instigate and justify sectarian or communal conflict, with allegations of blasphemy often serving as the trigger for mob violence that has in some cases been implicitly, if not explicitly, condoned by police and government officials.
Pakistan formally ratified the ICCPR in June 2010, pledging its commitment to the treaty’s protections. Many of the rights violated by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are also enshrined in the universal Declaration of Human Rights, and are nominally protected by the Pakistan Constitutional Law and other domestic legislation.
Vagueness in Clarity:

Despite their harsh penalties, the blasphemy laws provide no clear guidance on which the offence constitutes a violation. This determination is left to police and judicial officials to make, often relying on their own personal beliefs and interpretations of Islam. As it has been argued, “interpreting what falls under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws is essentially a theological question and, since there is no black-letter definition of the crime in the Holly Quran or other authoritative Islamic sources, it is one that remains unsettled.” The vagueness of the laws lend to their utility for settling personal vendettas and targeting religious minorities at will.


In addition, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws fail to consistently distinguish between malicious, deliberate acts of blasphemy and unintended ones—a distinction normally provided for in criminal law. While Articles 295 and 295(A) specify the criminalization of “deliberate and malicious” acts, or acts intended “to insult the religion of any class,” the other articles in section XV of the PPC do not include any such language.

The effects of this shortcoming in the law are apparent in the case of Anwar

Kenneth, a Pakistani Christian who was arrested and charged with blasphemy in 2001 for distributing a Christian pamphlet and declaring that Prophet Muhammad was a false prophet, one of the most serious forms of blasphemy in Pakistan. Kenneth also claimed he was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and that he had received revelations from god. According to a number of sources close to the case, he suffered from severe psychiatric problems. His lawyer, Saadia Khalid, reportedly requested an exam to determine whether he was mentally fit to stand trial, but the request was denied. The judge argued that Kenneth’s mental status was irrelevant as he had already admitted to declaring that Muhammad was a false prophet. Khalid reportedly insisted that the allegedly blasphemous statements were not “the hateful sacrilege of an infidel, but the demented ravings of a sick man.”  In July 2002 Kenneth was sentenced to death. 

It is widely believed that the draconian Blasphemy Law is used for the miscarriage of justice; it is exploited ruthlessly by fanatics to settle scores with rivals and by religio-political parties to gain political leverage over administrative apparatuses.


Authoritative interpretations of international law since 1999 have stipulated that the death penalty should not be applicable to persons suffering from mental retardation, mental disorder, or limited mental competence.

Inordinate Punishments:

The punishments for violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are excessively severe, giving rise to a range of possible human rights violations. As noted above, Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court ruled in 1991 that the punishment for blaspheming against the prophet Muhammad is “death and nothing else.” Many defendants have been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, and although none have yet been executed for this crime, several remain on death row and many are killed in jail.


The death penalty has not been banned by international law, but the United Nations has set important and necessary limitations on its application, reserving it only for “the most serious crimes.” The UN Human Rights Council has routinely interpreted “the most serious crimes” to mean those offences that result in loss of life. The UN Human Rights Committee’s general Comment similarly states that the committee “is of the opinion that the expression ‘most serious crimes’ must be read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure.”The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has found that under no circumstances and for no offense is a mandatory death penalty ever compatible with international human rights law.

 In the same study, the special rapporteur cited instances in which the Human Rights Council has articulated its concern those crimes carrying the death penalty are “excessively vague,” “loosely defined,” and “couched in terms so broad that the imposition of the death penalty may be subject to essentially subjective criteria.” Article 295(C) of the PPC suffers from all of these shortcomings. And as the former special rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief has stated, “applying the death penalty for blasphemy appears disproportionate and even unacceptable.”

Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Detention:

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and their implementation in practice lead to routine violations of the right not to be held in extended arbitrary detention, as provided for in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR and also it is granted by the Constitution of Pakistan.
Despite the 2004 amendments requiring a police investigation prior to an arrest, individuals accused of blasphemy are routinely arrested and detained without any preliminary inquiry. Furthermore, the lower courts issue convictions based on minimal evidence, often in the context of intimidation and threats by religious extremists. This has led to accused blasphemers spending years in jail before higher courts overturn their convictions and clear them of all charges. Recently in May 2014, Lawyer Rashid Rehman killed after taking on blasphemy case. He knew the risks he was taking. He knew too, that many others had declined to take on the case.
According to previous example, it takes approximately eight years for a convicted defendant to be exonerated by the Supreme Court.

Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment & Right to Life and Security of the Person Pakistan’s human rights record is marred by numerous reported incidents of abuse that amount to violations of the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

According to Human Rights watch,

“Torture by Pakistan’s police and the military’s intelligence services continues to be routine.”

Individuals accused of blasphemy are not exempt from this pattern, and some have alleged that they were tortured or mistreated in detention, either by fellow inmates or by police and prison guards. Security forces have also allegedly stood by while extremist vigilantes took blasphemy accusations into their own hands.
A Pakistani policeman shot and wounded a 70-year-old British man with a history of mental illness in the jail where he is on death row for blasphemy.


The Daily Dawn has reported that 32 people accused of blasphemy were the victims of extrajudicial killings between 1984 and 2004.

In another incident, Hindu factory worker Jagdish Kumar was beaten to death in April 2008 by coworkers who alleged that he had made blasphemous remarks about the prophet Muhammad. Police were summoned but did little to intervene or protect Kumar. The three leaders of the attack were arrested—not for murder, but for failing to report a case of blasphemy. Some policemen were eventually suspended for their lack of action in the incident.


In July 2010, two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy were shot and killed as they were leaving a hearing at a Faisalabad court premises. They were accused of writing a pamphlet that was critical of the prophet Muhammad, but church supporters, government officials, and others said it appeared that the men had been set up. Their deaths sparked violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in their community.

Detained blasphemy suspects face other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Several have reported being held in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own safety.

Younas Masih has written about his experience as a death-row inmate convicted of blasphemy: “I was held in solitary confinement, in a very small death cell in the Central Jail, a dark and dirty death cell. I remained constantly under threat of murder by Islamic inmates in jail for murder and gang rape, and by some religiously-minded prison wardens.”
Khuram Shahzad said he was held in a six foot by four foot cell that reached temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.


The prolonged detention of individuals accused of blasphemy coupled with the threat of being sentenced to death, or with an actual sentence of death, may also amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. In Soering VS UK, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that extraditing an individual to the united states, where he would most likely be sentenced to death, would amount to a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the lengthy and complex post sentencing procedures involved. The court stated that as a result, “the condemned prisoner has to endure for many years the conditions on death row and the anguish and mounting tension of living in the ever-present shadow of death.” As described above, individuals facing death sentences in Pakistan for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad have been detained for several years during the trial and appeals process.

No Possibility of fair trial:
When the case of blasphemy surface and the accused belongs to Christian religion then there is much pressure from extremists and members of banned Muslim organizations on Police officials and no chance of true investigation. This pressure is not ended here, this goes to judges and without fair trial the accused is given sentence. The same pressure on lawyers too who represent such blasphemy accused and they are attacked by those militants.
In May 2014, Rashid Rehman lawyer and an activist who had complained about receiving death threats after he took on a controversial blasphemy case had been shot dead by gunmen who stormed into his office. He was threatened by two lawyers and two other persons who asked him not to appear in the blasphemy case he was representing.
The Strictest Law:
Pakistan has strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty for blasphemy, and they are often used to settle personal disputes and vendettas. The members of banned Muslim organizations use them against other religious minority groups to stop them to preach their religious faith.
A recent report from a US government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world; listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.
Reforming or repealing the blasphemy law in Pakistan:

The extremist organizations’ incitements to hate and violence have sadly turned into actions and reality have a direct bearing on the public’s conduct towards minorities, particularly those accused of blasphemy. A review of major blasphemy cases over the last 28 years and interviews with the accused revealed that the law is used by zealots to suppress liberals and others who think differently. Over the years, it has become evident that the Blasphemy Law singles out non-Muslims for persecution.
                     
"How can Asia Bibi and others be saved from the gallows? The blasphemy law is a bad law enacted under pressure from extremists who threaten violence if the government does anything to lessen its impact or to ameliorate the lot of those who have fallen victim to it. A bad law will always come back to haunt us and that is why our ultimate aim must be its repeal." The Guardian, Saturday 13 November 2010.

“The Blasphemy Laws in their present form have become a source of victimization and persecution of minorities in the country. Minorities suffer all manner of humiliation through false accusations made under these laws. In the present climate of hate, intolerance and violence in Pakistan, the Blasphemy Laws have become a major tool in the hands of extremist elements to settle personal scores against members of religious minorities, particularly Christians.” United Nations

"Pakistan blasphemy law 'should be abolished" ' BBC, 20 July 2010.

Blasphemy excites strong emotions among parts of Pakistan’s public like no other issue. Many people accused of blasphemy are killed by mobs before they even make it to trial. According to an estimate at least 52 people have been killed over blasphemy offences since 1990.

Conclusion:

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws foster an environment of intolerance and impunity, and lead to violations of a broad range of human rights, including the obvious rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as well as freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to due process and a fair trial; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and the right to life and security of the person.
The country is unique in the severity of abuses arising from the application of its blasphemy laws, and in the frequency with which the laws are invoked to prosecute individuals and justify vigilantism. The overall effect is a serious erosion of the rule of law itself, with police and courts seemingly at the mercy of Islamist extremists and other extralegal forces. Basic injustices are meted out not just too religious minorities and Muslims with dissenting views on Islam, but also to ordinary people whose personal disputes, opinions, or weaknesses make them ready fodder for the broader conflicts that trouble Pakistani society.
Ultimately, though, most civil society participants in the debate on the blasphemy law believe that to ensure the fundamental human rights of all citizens, irrespective of class, caste and creed, as envisaged by Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the current government needs to repeal the law without further delay.
It is more than shameful for this increasingly intolerant and bigoted society that the perpetrators behind such heinous crimes are respected as heroes of Islam while the principles of justice stand paralyzed .Parliament needs to take immediate steps to save Christians and other religious minorities from an incremental breakdown of justice because of the blasphemy law while providing safeguards for the falsely accused, whose number is increasing.
"Continued use of the blasphemy law is odious," and “As long as such laws remain on the books, Pakistan will remain afflicted by abuse in the name of religion and no safety for religious minorities,” said Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Human Rights Defender.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Supreme Court Took Notice on Kot Radha Kishan Incident

PAKISTAN:The Supreme Court finally took Sue Moto notice to the Punjab Government to submit a report within three days and ordered an investigation in Kot Radha Kishan tragedy of burning alive Christian Husband and Wife in the alleged desecration of Quranic pages.

Cousins of the Pakistan Christian couple burned to death say they are being pressured to drop their calls for a criminal case and demand the government to protect them.The other Christians of the villages Rosa and Bhail also are being threatened to face dire consequences by those who are main suspects and also by those whose relatives suspects were arrested.

One man from Bhail village came to Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender and told that Muslims from the concerned villages are making threats by saying that there is now started enmity between Muslims and Christians after the Police raiding on Muslims' homes.

Actually there is a mind set who consider Christians infidels and they wish to make them convert from their faith by hook or by crook and  simply they can involve very easily  any  Christian in blasphemy case.


In recent a leader of a well known Political Party gave his remarks in a live TV Show about Christians calling them infidels (Kafir) commenting on incident of burning a Christian couple alive in Kot Rada Kishan on November 4, 2014.


Asia Bibi's husband,Ashiq Masih, has sent an open letter to President of Pakistan,Mamoon Hussain,to pardon Asia Bibi death sentence in blasphemy, so that they can move safely in abroad and settle there to avoid any attack from any extremist.

Last year in April,Lahore High Court overturned the death sentence of a Christian,Younas Masih,convicted under “blasphemy” laws and ordered him released in the same offence as of Asia Bibi. The blasphemy accusation on him has ruined his family and he is still living in hiding here and there to save himself. 

Living in a land of 97% Muslims, the Christians in Pakistan have the fear of persecution all the time in the guise of threats, attacks, discrimination and hatred but one intimidation that hovers on them every time is the blasphemy laws. The lives of blasphemy accused always under hanging sword during trial or in jail or even after release from the jail.                        

Sunday, 9 November 2014

LEAD Protest Against Brutal Killing Of The Christian Couple And Demand Justice for Them

KASUR:LEAD held a protest march demanding the wrongdoers be brought to justice.The government must take immediate bold steps to repeal blasphemy law."The government has absolutely failed to protect its citizens' right to life and property.Said Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender. 

Condemning the alive burning at kiln furnace of Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi,the killing of the couple at the hands of a charged mob was based on a "false accusation of blasphemy."

The protest was organized by LEAD,and participated by Pastors of all denominations including Catholic and Protestant.The demonstrators chanted slogans and brandished placards protesting the ongoing religious persecution in Pakistan, demanding an end to the injustices and abuses related to the blasphemy laws. 
The Police deliberately failed to save the couple and claiming that they were unable to do so because the mob was outnumbered.The Police mostly would be unable to save if the blasphemy accused is Christian. 

Christians in Pakistan are not safe unless and until blasphemy law are present and the purpose to promulgate of these laws is just to persecute them.These laws are grave violation of human rights.They should be repealed immediately and we request that west should play its constructive and effective role in it and must speak with us. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

The kiln Bonded Work And Modern Slavery: Is The Fate of Christian

PAKISTAN: The bonded labor in Pakistan is a disease and the kiln work is a modern slavery.The kiln work is considered Christian's work because the majority of the kiln workers are Christian.The work of sweepers is also rated for Christians and  it is advertised in all Government departments that  the sweepers seats are reserved only for Christians.
This is also a mindset and an instrumental strategy of the Landlords.These brick kiln owners can snatch the freedom of thought and freedom of movement of these kiln workers by giving them advance loans which goes generation to generation and they can not be able to pay back to get their freedom which is their constitutional right to have and enjoy it.
The children of brick kiln workers have no future except to adopt the profession of their parents because they have no access and resources to get education which can make their future. 
The Most Horrible Martyrdom In The History of Pakistan,Could Be The First Drop of Rain Towards the Extinction Of  Bonded Labor and Modern Slavery? 
It is being discussed that if the Christian couple has the right of freedom of movement then they had a chance to save and to rescue themselves from the enraged mob attack and they could have a chance to not be roasted alive on 4 November in the alleged desecration of Quranic pages.
In the whole world,every man's eyes have in tears and first time in the history of Pakistan,the resound of non extremism and non violence is being heard from all elements of the society and they scolded the slavery and bonded labor by condemning the brutal and inhumane behavior of the religious charged mob and mind set which beaten ,paraded naked and burned alive the innocent Christian husband and wife.
We have to pledge to do whatever we can do to get them release by adopting the families involved in bonded labor and slavery and to take step to contribute in the future building of the children of these brick kiln workers who are much vulnerable children of the world.We urged to all individuals and the organizations to stand with us to abolish the slavery and bonded labor from the whole world specially Pakistan after the happening this inhumane incident.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Horrific and Atrocious Incidence of the Alive Burning the Christian Couple,Made Insecure Christians

KASUR:Today,Chief Minister of Punjab,Mian Shahbaz Sharif officially visited the victim family members at Christian Village Clarkabad and consoled them.He vowed to give justice the victim family.He also announced ten million rupees as financial support and land plot of ten acre.

The police is very actively making raids in the surrounding villages including Chak No.59 to arrest the culprits ,who burned alive the Christian husband and wife on the baseless alleged desecration of Quranic Pages, and now started to take in police custody of the women family members of the culprits so that the arrest of the remaining offenders ,who fled away from their homes and they are in hundreds,can be possible.
The police registered the FIR No.475/2014 at Police Station Kotradha Kishan, Police Choki Factory Area Ada Glammar Manga Raiwind Road under sections 302/436,201/148,149/353,186 PPC and 7 ATA on the complaint of State through Sub Inspector Muhammad Ali against 60 nominated and 500 unknown.

Today,Muhammad Ali Sub Inspector told Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill and BBC Reporters that the Police has arrested about 54 culprits and the court  has sent four to judicial lock up remaining are on physical remand so that the more offenders should be got recognised by them to arrest.
The Christian of Pakistan have become terrified and terror stricken after this horrific and atrocious incident of alive burning of the couple.

"Last two nights,I was not able to sleep properly because the unseen alive burning of the couple after making them naked and paraded seemed as now is happening in front of me",Mr.Gill.

We request you all to pray for the victim family and three kids of the martyrdoms and also pray for us who are working without fear instead of this that we got life threats during our work for human rights.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Christian Couple Brutally Beaten, Made Naked And Paraded Around The Kiln,Then Burnt Alive To Death

KASUR:Today 5 November 2014, Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender,head of LEAD met the brothers of Shahzad, how was burned alive along with his wife by a Muslim enraged mob on the alleged desecration of Quranic pages.
These are facts of the case by Iqbal:
Shahzad Masih got married about 8 years ago with Shama Bibi and they had three Children one son two daughters namely Sulman 6 years old ,Sonia 4 years old and Ponam 18 months old.
They are seven brothers including Shahzad and three sisters.They all are married.Shahzad was the youngest amongst them.One brother Fiaz Masih was converted to Islam and he had no contact with him since conversion to Islam.Five brothers had been working at the brick kiln of Yousaf Gujjar for about 17 years as a bonded labours.These are their names elder brother Iqbal Masih,Nawaz Masih,Aslam Masih,Imtiaz Masih,these four were present when the dreadful incident happened because these four and Shahzad were working at the kiln.The one brother namey Shahbaz Masih was working at one other brick kiln as a bonded labourer.
Eight days ago,their father Nazar Masih about 80 years old expired his natural death.He used to do phylactaxy and both Muslims and Christians came towards him for taking phyl for the relief of their disease and psycho problems.
On Sunday 2 November,Shama Bibi collected her father in law's belongings and also gathered some rough papers which she burned and threw on a heap of garbage.One Muslim hawker saw the half burned papers and told to head clerk of the kiln.The hawkers belonged to one of  near  villages and he spread this issue in the villages.When this news came in the knowledge of the kiln owner,he kept the couple hostage in one room for this fear and doubt that if they would flew away from his kiln who would pay back his advance loan.In the meanwhile,the conspiracy was being made against the couple in the nearby villages and on 4 November early in the morning,a charged mob reached at the kiln and in the meanwhile 5 Policemen also reached the scene of the incident.They tried their level best to save the couple and made assured the mob to arrest and to legal action against the couple under blasphemy but the mob were in hundreds and some of the mob climbed the roof and broken it and entered the room where the couple was held hostage.
The mob started beating them with clubs and made them naked ,and then praded them around the brick kiln factory during all this happening,the five policemen were in struggle to save them but the mob were in hundreds due to this the policemen were unsuccessful to save the couple.
The couple was become unable to walk on their legs because the legs were fractured then the mob set the couple on the kiln furnace and burned them alive to death.
All the brothers of Shahzad fled away with their children to save their own lives except of his one elder brother Iqbal Masih who watched all this with his naked eyes and lost his senses at the scene.
Today ,when Mr.Gill was talking with Bishop of Lahore,Rt.rev.Irfan Jamil and the victim's family members,the Bishop told media that the culprits must be punished and should not set free as happened in Joseph Colony incident.Mr.Gill requested to the Bishop that Church should take strong and bold steps against the misused of the blasphemy law and raise the voice for the immediate repeal of the blasphemy law which is purposefully being used as an instrument  of killing against Christians.
Last year in August,the same kind of Quran burning issue was surfaced but the alleged accused was the Muslim and the matter was resolved without killing or alive burning even FIR was not lodged against any one by an agreement in which it was stated that the pages of Quran were burned unconsciously.
Today the half burned Quran was found in Bhai Pheru which was threw out on a heap of garbage and there a large number of Muslims gathered including some local media reporters and clerics.The issue was let gone by saying that this was done by some Muslim because around the place of happening there are only Muslims residents.
So due to this mind set,we are right to say that the blasphemy law is just to forced the non-Muslim to believe that Islam and its faith is true and they are forced to follow it.This is a subtle instrument to persecute Christian and other non-Muslim.
There is much need to promote tolerance in our society and it is need to teach the majority to tolerate the minorities and their faith and respect them as considering them also human being.It is need to educate the peple to respect everyone's religious liberty and faith.Our request you all to be the part of our this campaign so that the extremism and the extremists should be turned towards peace loving people.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Christian Couple Burnt Alive In Blasphemy

LAHORE:Today 4 November,2014 about 7:00 am ,a Christian couple (Shahzad and Shama Bibi with pregnancy) burned alive in a blasphemy at District Kasur's Town Kotradha Kishan Chak.No.59.The incident occured on the Brick Kiln of a Muslim Yousaf Gujjar,now he is under Police custody along with 37 other culprits.

Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender,head of LEAD was informed by a local Christian man and he rushed towards the place of occurrence of this dreadful incident along with his team.
These are the facts of happening of this  incidence which were told by a Muslim co.worker of the brick kiln factory Muhammad Rafique:
The couple was working on the brick kiln along with other four brothers of Shahzad and a few days ago the father of Shahzad,Nazar Masih,was died and on Sunday evening,the wife of Shahzad,Shama Bibi collected some belongings of the deceased including some trashing papers which she burnt and threw the dust on a heap of garbage.The head manager of the kiln factory Muhammad Afzal saw the dust of burnt papers in which some half burnt Quranic pages were seen by him and one other Muslim hawkers who belong to nearby villages.
The manager of kiln caught the couple and made hostage them in a room meanwhile the announcement was made in nearby villages and the couple wanted to flee from the spot but the owner of the kiln demanded his advance loan which the couple took from him and the kiln owner was agreed to release them and made them fled if they would pay back the debt.
On 4 November,early in the morning,the announcement wad made from the loud speakers of the Mosques of the nearby villages and in hundreds a Muslim charged mob attacked at the room where the couple was made hostage by the owner of kiln and from ceiling of the room some men entered and dragged out the couple and started beating them with clubs and fractured their legs and then the mob dragged the couple towards the kiln's furnace and burnt them alive.

In Pakistan,the use of blasphemy law is just to persecute the Christians and other who possess the opposite opinion than Islamic faith and belief.We request at LEAD to all you to raise your voice for the survival and safety of Christians and their faith in Pakistan which is not possible without the repeal of blasphemy law and struggle with us for religious liberty and rule of law. on the basis of equality.