Christian Groups Lament As Pakistan Passes Bill to Increase Punishment For Blasphemy

Christian Groups Lament As Pakistan Passes Bill to Increase Punishment For Blasphemy: Christian groups along with civil society groups in Pakistan have raised alarm after Pakistan’s Legislature passes two bills to increase punishment for blasphemy offenses.

Whereas minority rights are not sufficiently protected under the National Commission for Minorities Law 2023, the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023 which was approved by Pakistan’s Senate on August 7, raises the penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammedd’s companions, wives, and family members from three years to life in prison and stipulates that the sentence cannot be less than ten years.

This was disclosed in a Friday statement by Christian Solidarity Worldwide. However, civil society and communities representing minorities in Pakistan cautioned that the Law, which the National Assembly adopted in January 2023, might encourage human rights abuses and target religious minorities.

They claim also that the contents of the bill are against the UN Paris Principles and do not follow the instruction of the Pakistan Supreme Court’s June 19, 2014 ruling. The Law received criticism for failing to establish a really useful organization to protect minority rights.

“Making the blasphemy laws more stringent could inflame the situation further,” CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said. “The National Commission for Minorities Bill 2023 is a missed opportunity to enact legislation that safeguards the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws criminalize anyone who insults Islam, including by ‘outraging religious feeling’, which carries either the death penalty or life imprisonment.  These laws are often used as weapons of revenge against both Muslims and non-muslims to settle personal scores or to resolve disputes over money, property, or business.

According to Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, one of the bill’s proponents, the penalty for violating the blasphemy legislation includes a fine of one million rupees  (about $3,500)




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