57 blasphemy cases reported in first 5 months of 2023

    At least 57 cases of alleged blasphemy were reported in Pakistan between January 1 and May 10, 2023, while four blasphemy suspects were lynched or extrajudicially killed during the same period, according to advocacy groups.

    Statistics shared by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and Peoples’ Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) on Tuesday showed that the highest number of blasphemy cases, 28, were reported in Punjab, followed by Sindh with 16, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with eight, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir with five.

    Additional data collected by CSJ reveals that since 1994, at least 92 individuals have been killed in incidents related to religious offenses. Among the victims, 50 were Muslims, 23 were Christians, 14 were Ahmadis, two were Hindus, one was Buddhist, and the religion of two individuals could not be determined.

    In response to these alarming figures, Justice (r) Nasira Javaid Iqbal, the patron-in-chief of PCMR, and Peter Jacob, the executive director of CSJ, have urged the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, the Standing Committees on Human Rights of the Senate and National Assembly of Pakistan, the National Commission for Human Rights, and the One-Man Commission established by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stop the misuse of the harsh statutes.

    They emphasised that the blasphemy laws have been consistently misused to settle personal disputes, persecute minority groups, and incite mob violence and hatred. They called for prompt action and a collective effort by the government to address these human rights violations.

    The outfits highlighted that sectarian and religious groups have created an environment of impunity, leading to the curtailment of freedom of expression, movement, and social interactions, particularly for minority communities.

    They urged the government to take measures to address these violations, including conducting a comprehensive study on the issue, promoting a collective narrative against the misuse of religion and blasphemy laws, and implementing the recommendations of the judicial inquiry conducted after the Gojra incident in 2009, where innocent lives were lost.

    Regarding the specific blasphemy statistics, the CSJ data shows that out of the 57 accused individuals, the majority were Muslim men (46) and five were Muslim women. Additionally, two Christians (one male and one female), three Ahmadis (all males), and one person of unknown religion were also accused.

    Geographically, Punjab had the highest number of blasphemy cases (28), followed by Sindh (16), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (8), and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (5).

    The data reflects the period from January to May 10, 2023, with eight incidents occurring in January, a significant increase to 17 cases in February, seven cases in March, another surge to 19 cases in April, and six cases in May (up to the 10th), totaling 57 accused individuals.

    According to the information available, four killings related to blasphemy occurred in different districts: Nankana Sahib, Narowal, Mardan, and Mirpur. Notably, all four victims were Muslim men.

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