Muslims made up a large chunk of people accused of committing blasphemy in the year 2021, according to a new report.
A report titled ‘Human Rights Observer 2022’ prepared by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has revealed that every second accused of blasphemy happened to be a Muslim, adding that as many as 84 persons had been booked under blasphemy charges throughout Pakistan in 2021.
According to the report, 42 people accused of blasphemy were Muslims followed by 25 Ahmadis, seven Hindus, and three Christians.
The study also included three cases of lynching, including the notorious lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot, reported in 2021.
The accused persons included one transgender person and six women. Of them, the transgender and two women happened to be Muslims by faith whereas four were Christians.
Over the years, the issue of unverified and speculative accusations of blasphemy has deepened, leading to incidents of lynching and extrajudicial settlements.
The issue was further brought to light in the wake of a flurry of shocking incidents wherein suspects were lynched over mere suspicions. Last month, vigilantes in Khanewal village lynched a mentally unstable man for allegedly committing blasphemy. The tragedy came as a grim reminder of the Sialkot lynching, drawing condemnation from the government as well as opposition parties that believed the gruesome incident humiliated the entire nation.
The data further revealed that 81 percent of cases have been reported in Punjab province alone. As many as 68 cases were reported in Punjab followed by seven in Islamabad, five in KPK, three in Sindh, and one in Azad and Jammu Kashmir.
At least 40 percent of the cases were reported from three districts of Punjab — Lahore, Sheikhupura and Kasur. As many as 11 cases were registered in Lahore, 13 in Sheikhupura, and 10 in Kasur.
Meanwhile, seven cases were reported from Bahawalpur, three from Faisalabad, two Rahim Yar Khan, six each from Muzzafargarh and Chiniot, one each from Rajanpur, Hafizabad, Jhang, Taxila, Okara and Rawalpindi, and four from Khanewal.
One case each was reported from Karachi, Mirpurkhas, and Tharparkar in Sindh. Three cases in Abbottabad district, one each from Peshawar and Charsadda have been reported in K-P province. In Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, one case was reported.
The report has put forth wide-ranging recommendations to prevent such incidents and quoted the recommendations made in the judicial inquiry held to investigate the Gojra incident in 2009.
It said that the probe report had put forward 10 recommendations, including a legislative review of the laws, administrative and educational measures.
The report called for bringing legislation to introduce safeguards against the abuse of blasphemy laws, prosecute and punish the perpetrators using the allegations of blasphemy and incitement to violence, compensate people wrongly accused of their losses and provide security to the accused and ensure adequate protection of the accused, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses in blasphemy cases.