Human Rights Campaigner I. A. Rehman Examines Pakistan’s Controversial Blasphemy Law and Its Misuse Against Christians, Other Minorities
On July 19, 2010, two Christians, pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajjad, were shot dead on the premises of a court in Pakistan’s Faisalabad city. The two had been accused of distributing blasphemous materials; a case had been filed against them under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code (PPP) for distributing handwritten pamphlets that contained blasphemous materials.
According to the report, the pamphlets carried two cellphone numbers which led to the brothers’ arrest, following a complaint lodged by one Khurram, who is believed to be member of the little known Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool (Movement for the Prophet’s Dignity).
In another case, a 60-year-old woman, Zaibun Nisa or Zainab Bibi, spent 14 years in a Pakistani prison for an alleged act of blasphemy against the Holy Koran, though no court trial took place and no police case was filed against her. The Lahore High Court, which ordered her release after no evidence was found against her, expressed dismay over her long detention “without any trial.” The woman was also found to be mentally unstable.
The cases cited above have caused fresh concerns over Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. One of them, Section 295-C, carries the death penalty.
In most blasphemy cases, Pakistan’s trial courts in Pakistan cannot deliver impartial judgments because of threats from armed religious groups, and sometimes even from vigilante policemen, who take it upon themselves to implement their own form of instant justice against the accused. The blasphemy laws have also attracted international attention, especially for their misuse against minority communities in Pakistan such as Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi Muslims.
Several human rights campaigners and members of minority communities have demanded changes in these laws. However, no Pakistani minister wants to risk his life by introducing such legislation.