Christian human rights groups in Pakistan are urging local courts to reject Sharia punishments for the blasphemy accused in the Muslim majority country.
Last week, a Peshawar High Court bench issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan and provincial advocate general over a petition seeking orders for the government to remove the option of punishment other than the death penalty for blasphemy from the Pakistan Penal Code.
The petitioner claimed the issue of an alternative punishment of life imprisonment had already been decided by the Federal Shariat Court, but it had not been implemented by federal and provincial governments. The option of life imprisonment was made defunct after a Federal Shariat Court judgement in 1991.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) UK, a Christian charity dedicated to helping persecuted Christians in Pakistan, rejected the death penalty for blasphemy in a March 25 press release.
“It’s time to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law. We see every day how this law is being misused by individuals and religious groups to achieve their goals and settle their personal grudges, especially against religious minorities,” said Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS.
“Several governments have pledged to stop its misuse, and even recommended 10 years imprisonment for a false accusation, but nothing has changed. Instead, voices against the misuse of the blasphemy law have been forced into silence.”
Kashif Aslam, Deputy Director of the Advocacy and Program National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Church’s human rights body, in Pakistan agreed.
“Clearly the judges are prejudiced. We are experiencing such attitudes from the beginning,” he said. “Instead of being driven by emotions, they should go by the book. We demand overall reforms in judicial system,” he told.