Saturday, 13 December 2014

Land Grabbing A Serious Issue Of Oppressing Pakistani Christians

KASUR:There is another subtle instrument of oppression against Christians in Pakistan, ‘land grabbing’.It is based on rent, purchase or mortgage of large plots of land including agricultural plots of their forefathers, and in Pakistan this abuse is systematically used by a number of landlords and powerful individuals and in some cases the land of Churches and graveyards is too grabbed.
A poor brick kiln worker Christian family was living in a village Bassan Chak No.47 ,Pattoki and four years ago left their home to work on a brick kiln.The Muslim man,Muhammad Ishaq occupied the home and Church when the family came to know about illegal occupation of their land Church,the Christian family came to village and requested to dispossess the home and their Church.Mr.Ishaq flately refused to give back the home and Church to Christian family.

A Christian woman from the family Ummar Bibi dared to take legal step against the illegal occupation of Mr.Ishaq on it,he beaten and tortured her with the help of other men.She approached the concern Police Station and other land related authorities but all proved vain because the occupant is very strong to defeat the Christian family.

Today,family reached to Rev.Saleem Masih ,Pattoki Church because the Christian family is member of his Church,Lahore diocese,Bishop of Lahore,Rt.Rev.Irfan Jamil.Rev.Saleem called to Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender,head of LEAD and requested to reach immediately to his Church,Pattoki where a Christian family, whose home and Church was grabbed by a Muslim man,Muhammad Ishaq,was reached for legal support and help to dispossess the home and Church from the illegal occupation.The Christian family told the facts of the land grabbing and the threats extended towards them.

In many cases of blasphemy,the motive behind the blasphemy issue was just land grabbing.Two more cases of blasphemy accusations have emerged in Pakistan, even after a Christian couple’s beating and alive burning in a brick kiln after allegations of blasphemy horrified the world.The Christian couple were killed over suspicions of desecrating the Quran on 4,November.

Nine Christians in Islamabad have been named in FIR only because their names were found on a list attached to the half burned pages of the Quran.Naheed Ahmed, who runs a tea stall in Islamabad, lodged a formal complaint FIR No. 596/14 in Police Station Industrial Area on 20 November he found partially burned pages of the Quran when he was returning from the mosque after saying the early morning prayer.

One Christian woman School teacher has been booked in an allegation of blasphemy whose investigation is under process.

We at LEAD are trying to resolve this case without registration of FIR and any further litigation, so that the Christian woman could be saved from further social and economic fallout after being accused of blasphemy and from any mishaps.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Two Minors Sisters Abducted And Gangrapped Whole Night At Gunpoint By Three Muslim Men

FAISALABAD:Today,Pastor Razaq came to LEAD office and requested for legal assistance and support for two sisters who were abducted and rapped at gunpoint by three Muslim men at Jaranwala,village Chak No.651/2 a very small village with around 200 families, of which around forty are Christian families. Most residents earn their livelihood as labourers.
He told that the two Christian girls, Sehrish 16 years old and Farzana  14 years old went to a hidden place in the nearby fields ,which they use for toilets as they cannot afford one in thier own home because of poverty. When they had finished three young armed men forced the two girls that they went to their home,they threatened to shoot them if they would not to do and the two girls were both scared and terrified,and they both were crying and weeping in this bad time the both girls held hand to give eachother some support.

He told that his relatives were living in the area and the father of the girls in need of legal assistance because he could not afford legal cost.He said that he met the family and the both  girls cried as they remembered the attack.

He said that one girl told ,the young men kept touching them in their private areas while they walked, the three men were laughing at them,they knew what was going to happen to them and were terrified, but they were compelled to act as the men wished.

He told that they recognised the young men who were from their area. The young men are Muslim Shahbaz, Asif and Azeem took them to their house and ripped their clothes off. They kept them there for the whole night and gang raped them many times.After this, the rapists set the two girls free early in the morning at around 6:00 am and the two girls rushed to home weeping and told their father what happened, who had been extremely worried about them and had been hysterical on hearing about the torturous ordeal his girls had suffered.

He also told that Ilyas Masih father of the victims had waited for the girls and had reported them missing to the local police, he  had been searching for them in nearby houses and tried his best to find them throughout the night.

He told that FIR had been registered at Police Station Kurrerianwala and two culprits Azeem and Shahbaz were arrested.

He informed that the culprits had also previously been accused of rape by another Christian family, who had to accept a compromise settlement as it was hard to face the pressure from them and now in this case too the Police and other influential people of the village  are trying to force Ilyas to reach a similar compromise.

Pastor requested to Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender to take this case and make possible justice for the victim family  because there is no other way of redress.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Christian Man Tortured To Death During Custody By Police In Lahore

LAHORE: A Pakistani Christian man, Allah Rakha Shahzad, died on Saturday November 22,2014, allegedly after the police brutally tortured him at the Green Town Police Station,Lahore. 35-year-old Shahzad who was also known as Mithu was booked by the police Friday night November 21. After his arrest an FIR over selling alcohol and drugs was lodged against him. The deceased’ family points to the police torture and alleges that he died during interrogation while in police custody and due to physical torture inflicted upon him by the police. On the other hand, the Police officials however, have denied these allegations and have claimed that his cause of death was heart attack.

After death of Shahzad, grieved and angry family members staged protest in front of the Green Town police station and broke the window glasses, pelted stones at the police station and tried to storm into the police station while and even broke the front door of the police station while their protest. The protesters also burnt tyres on the road causing a blockade. Dr Haider Ashraf – DIG Operations later took notice of the incident after Shahzad’s family members protested. Subsequently, an FIR was lodged against the investigation officer (IO) ASI Rauf and three other police constables over beating Shahzad to death while in police custody.

LEAD request you all to pray for the victim family and our team for wisdom and courage for legal support of the victims and continue struggle for rule of law and fair trial.

A Christian Women Was Tortured and Beaten and Made stripped Naked By Two Muslim Brothers

SHEIKHUPURA: On 4 November 2014,a Christian husband and wife Shahzad and Shama Bibi ,who was pregnant, burned alive after beaten by a enraged Muslim mob in a false  blasphemy issue and within the month second incident of woman torture happened in Christian Colony,Rana Town,Shiekhupura District where a Christian woman was beaten and stripped naked by two Muslim brothers,Muneeb and Mobeel Gondal,on a trivial quarrel of their mother and sister with the Christian woman 28 years old Elishbah Bibi mother of four Children.

Today,Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender and Chief of LEAD,received a phone call from local Christian,Shahzad Azim, resident of Christian Colony,Rana Town.He told that FIR NO.1220 / 2014 under sections 354,379/34 PPC at Police Chowki Rana Town of Police Station Ferozwala and he requested for legal assistance in this case.He told that the alleged suspects have submitted their pre-arrest bail petitions in Tehsil Courts,Ferozwala in which next date of hearing is fixed 9 December and asked for free legal aid.

He further added that the Christian community along with the victim family protested against the police who did not register the case under section 354-A PPC and the police did not arrest any suspect.He also told that  the alleged suspects brothers attacked her because she had argued with their mother and sister.He added while they were beating her no body dare to rescue her because they threatened if anyone came forward to help and rescue her,the same would be happened with him.

The women of  religious minorities are easy target of violence in the form of physical torture particularly against Christians, in general, is increasing in Pakistan since after 9/11 incident. The issue of prejudice arises in a country where the Christians are a small minority in Pakistan; they represent only 1.6% of the 180 million Pakistanis 96% Muslims.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Second Appeal of Asia Bibi has Been Filed in Supreme Court Of Pakistan Before Lahore Bench

LAHORE: Yesterday,On 24 November,2014, second appeal was filed in Supreme Court of Pakistan before Lahore Bench on behalf of Asia Bibi ,a catholic Mother of five by Saiful Malook,advocate of Supreme Court against the decision of Lahore High Court in which her appeal was dismissed and death sentence was confirmed on 16 October,2014.

Recently Ashiq Masih husband of Asia Bibi has sent an open letter to President of Pakistan for pardon against the death sentence in blasphemy.He told that he was convinced that Asia would only be saved from being hanged if the Honorable President would overturn her wife's death sentence for blasphemy.

In November 2010,Asia Bibi,a Christian mother,was convicted under section 295 C PPC and sentenced to death.Since from the accusation to death conviction,she is languishing in jail.

LEAD vows to support and  stand with Saiful Malook,her attorney in Supreme Court and also assures their moral and spiritual support for Asia Bibi and her family.

He told that she was sick and since her arrest she was in terrible condition and spending her days in dark cell.He also showed his fear and told that they could not be able to live in one place and they are in constant fear of attack and remain changing their residence from one place to other.

On 4 November,2014 about 7:00 am ,a Christian couple  burned alive after accusing them of desecration of Quranic pages  at District Kasur's Town Kotradha Kishan Chak.No.59 which was the latest example of mob violence against Christian accused of blasphemy.

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.

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 régime, 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.