Activists join politicians in condemning misuse of blasphemy laws

    Following the registration of a case against the desecration of Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) in Saudi Arabia, human rights activists have joined clerics and political leaders in condemning the misuse of the blasphemy law in the country.

    In a letter dated May 2 written to special rapporteurs of the UN, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) core committee member Shireen Mazari called for their intervention to cease the Pakistani government’s “misuse of the blasphemy law” against former prime minister Imran Khan and senior PTI leaders.

    The letter has been addressed to the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, special rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, and special rapporteur on the freedom of religion and belief.

    It stated that Pakistan had been engulfed in a political crisis ever since the Imran Khan-led government was ousted through a vote of no-confidence and replaced with a government led by Shehbaz Sharif, who has been named in “multiple money-laundering and corruption cases and is out on bail”.

    Maulana Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, former special representative to the prime minister for interfaith harmony and Middle East, categorically stated in a video message that the misuse of blasphemy law would not be permitted on the basis of personal and political grudges against anyone at all costs.

    Read more: Ex-PM Imran, top PTI brass booked for blasphemy

    He said he had already assured about it in his earlier media talk after discussing the issue in detail with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

    Ashrafi — who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council — proposed that Mazari should raise the issue, if any, at national forums like the court of law, Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB), and Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) keeping in view the sensitivity of the subject as an international drive against the blasphemy law was already in progress.

    He said that blasphemy cases lodged by the people against the PTI leadership would be decided in the light of the Quran and Sunnah and the Constitution when they would come to MUB and CII through courts.

    Lamenting Mazari’s letter, he said it would help provide a platform to the international conspirators for making propaganda in a bid to weaken the existing law. He expressed the hope that the PTI leadership and Shireen Mazari would withdraw from it as it was not in the national interest.

    Ashrafi said that when the PTI was in power, it was also its stance to desist from all sorts of malicious campaigns against this law.

    READ MORE: Female madrassa teacher killed over blasphemy allegation

    Human rights activists condemned the latest case, saying that the use of blasphemy allegations to settle political scores is unacceptable.

    In this week’s special episode of Live With Saif on Kross Konnection, Pakistan’s leading human rights advocate Saif Ul Malook explained the legality of the blasphemy charges brought against PTI leaders.

    “The cases registered against senior PTI leaders under Section 295-A must be withdrawn immediately. No government or political party can afford to allow allegations of blasphemy to be weaponized against its rivals,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement on May 1.

    According to lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir, police cannot register a first information report (FIR) under 295A on a citizen’s complaint.

    “Instead it requires a complaint on the government’s order. So the FIR against Imran Khan is either defective or registered on express government orders. PML-N learned nothing from Faizabad Dharna, playing the same dangerous blasphemy card which it fell a victim to five years ago,” he said in a Facebook post.

    “Whenever politicians/state have played the blasphemy card, fear and insecurity creep in society. People are enraged and the atmosphere eventually leads to outpouring of violence. Anyone caring for society will not indulge in such politics.”

    READ MORE: Netizens welcome death sentence for six in Priyantha Kumara lynching case

    Kashif Aslam, deputy director of the Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace, agreed.

    “This is totally unacceptable. It is obvious that blasphemy cases are only used to settle personal scores. We reject using religion in political issues,” he said.

    “Imran Khan is already using the religion card and we urge this government to refrain from this. They should address this issue in the political context only,” he added.


    False accusations of blasphemy are common in Pakistan, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests.

    In February, vigilantes in Khanewal village lynched a mentally unstable man for allegedly committing blasphemy. The tragedy came as a grim reminder of the Sialkot lynching in December 2021, drawing condemnation from the government as well as opposition parties that believed the gruesome incident humiliated the entire nation.

    On March 16, 54-year-old Fansan Shahid, a Christian employee of the Pakistan Railways, was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cybercrime Circle Gujranwala on allegations that he made a blasphemous comment on a Facebook post.

    READ MORE: Activists say mob violence in name of religion must end

    The government’s failure to curb the misuse of the blasphemy laws is emboldening false accusers, rights activists say.

    According to a Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report titled ‘Human Rights Observer, 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.

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