Amid calls to review its harsh blasphemy laws, Pakistan has gone for the opposite.
The National Assembly has unanimously passed an amendment to the laws that widens the net and makes punishment more stringent under these laws.
The amendment was proposed by a Jamaat-e-Islami member and the house passed it in a unanimous vote.
Section 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) deals with blasphemy. The same section is present in the Indian Penal Code. In Pakistan, the punishment for disrespecting the wives, family and companions of the prophet carried imprisonment for a minimum of three years along with a fine.
The blasphemy laws are often misused in Pakistan to settle personal scores. It is also used to persecute its small minorities.
Salman Taseer, then Governor of Punjab, was shot dead by his bodyguard for supporting a Christian woman wrongly prosecuted for blasphemy. The killer was hanged after a trial but his grave has become a mazaar where people visit and pay respects to the murderer.
In December 2021, a Sri Lankan man was lynched by a mob for tearing off a political poster which had the prophet's name printed on it. The poster was in Urdu and the victim did not know the script.
Among the people killed for blasphemy, the majority are Muslims who are accused by other Muslims to settle personal scores or due to misgivings. This prevents people from criticising religious dogma lest the criticism is termed an insult.
"If you don't let my car go, I will accuse you of blasphemy, will call mullahs & we will cut you into pieces."— Bilal Farooqi (@bilalfqi) January 8, 2023
A person threatened a Christian woman security incharge of Karachi Airport ICG warehouse.Blasphemy laws are inflicted on us like a curse. Text & video via @MonaChaudhryy pic.twitter.com/Lv7pPFjCG3
Recently, a man stopped by an officer with a Christian name threatened her with a blasphemy charge.
Man Threats Cristian Lady Officer on Karachi Airport | Accusation of Blasphemy Against the Women in charge of the Responsible institution pic.twitter.com/c7lwLfIBZC— Naya Daur Media (@nayadaurpk) January 7, 2023