Punjab announces remissions for non-Muslim inmates memorising holy books

    The Punjab government has announced remissions for non-Muslim inmates upon completing the study of their respective religious books in prisons across the province, sources said.

    A summary has been sent to the Chief Minister’s (CM) Office for cutting the sentences of Christian and Hindu prisoners memorising the Bible and Gita, respectively. After an official notification, the sentences of such prisoners will be reduced by between three and six months.

    Muslim convicts who memorise the holy Quran can already gain sentence remissions of between six months and two years, which had prompted prison ministry officials to demand a realistic equivalent for non-Muslim inmates.

    “Our efforts spanning over a decade have finally borne fruit as the authorities concerned have given a nod to remissions for inmates belonging to religious minorities in Punjab for completing the study of their religious books,” Rah-e-Nijat Prison Ministry Chairman Safdar Choudhry said while announcing the development.

    He went on to thank the government for taking a step toward providing relief to non-Muslim prisoners across Punjab.


    The Lahore High Court (LHC) had in March this year sought a report from the Punjab government about remissions given to non-Muslim prisoners in sentences on the basis of completing education and on memorising holy books of their respective religions.

    Kashif Masih, a resident of Lahore, had filed a petition for the grant of remissions to the prisoners of other religions as being granted to Muslims under Rule 215 of the Pakistan Prisons Rules 1978.

    Petitioner’s counsel Shahbaz Akmal Jandran had pointed out that the rule provided remission under the category of education for those convicted Muslim prisoners who completed reading of the Holy Quran; however, convicts belonging to non-Muslim communities were not given such remissions in violation of their constitutional rights enshrined in Articles 9, 14, 20, 22, 25 and 26.


    According to official data, the beneficiaries of this development would be a total of 1,188 minority prisoners, including Christian, Hindu and Sikh, languishing in all 43 jails of Punjab.

    The data further reveals that these prisoners include 829 undertrial prisoners, 320 convicts and 39 condemned prisoners. Among the condemned inmates is one Christian woman locked up at a jail in Multan.


    Welcoming the decision to offer remissions to minority inmates, Church of Pakistan’s President Bishop Dr Azad Marshall said the move would bring necessary relief to non-Muslim inmates languishing in prisons.

    “However, this is not where it should end. It is high time that the demand for quota for minority students in technical, professional and higher education institutions is also met,” he said.

    Bishop Marshall also mentioned the provision of extra marks for memorising the Holy Quran while seeking admission to universities across the country.

    “We believe that memorising the Holy Quran is sacred. But it is time that youths belonging to the country’s vulnerable religious minorities are also given their due share in the higher education sphere for reading their respective holy books.”

    “Our Constitution, after all, protects the rights of every citizen irrespective of caste, creed and religion,” he said.

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