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Pakistan was to review its harsh blasphemy laws. It has made them even harsher.

DailyBite
DailyBiteJan 18, 2023 | 17:42

Pakistan was to review its harsh blasphemy laws. It has made them even harsher.

Pakistan's stringent laws against blasphemy are taking the country's progress backwards (photo-DailyO)

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 law that proscribes disrespect of the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed, now covers his wives (Ummahatul Momineen), the Prophet's family members (Ahl-e-Bait), the first four successors (Khulfa-e-Rashideen) and the Prophet's companions (Sahaba-e-Kiram).

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 bill increases that from three to 10 years and a Rs 10-lakh penalty.
  • The imprisonment can be extended to a life sentence if the violations are grave.

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.

Salman Taseer, one of Pakistan's most liberal politicians was murdered in 2011 (photo-Getty Images)
Salman Taseer, one of Pakistan's most liberal politicians, was murdered in 2011 (photo-Getty Images)

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.

Recently, a man stopped by an officer with a Christian name threatened her with a blasphemy charge. 
 

Last updated: January 18, 2023 | 17:42
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