Pak blasphemy law tweak to be weaponised against religious minorities

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep ‘concern’ over the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023, which was passed unanimously in the National Assembly on January 17.

The HRCP believe that it is likely to exacerbate the ‘persecution’ of Pakistan’s beleaguered religious minorities and minority sects, Samaa TV reported.

In a statement, the HRCP said the proposed legislation increases the punishment for using derogatory remarks against holy persons from three years with a fine to imprisonment for life “which will not be less than 10 years”.

The bill also makes the offence non-bailable, thereby directly violating the constitutionally guaranteed right to personal liberty under Article 9.

These amendments are likely to be ‘weaponized’ disproportionately against religious minorities and sects, resulting in false FIRs, harassment and persecution, Samaa TV reported.

The HRCP opined that increasing the penalty for alleged blasphemy will aggravate misuse of the law to settle personal vendettas, as is often the case with blasphemy allegations.

The statement of objectives of the bill says disrespecting the companion of the Holy Prophet and other sacred personalities not only promotes terrorism and disruption in the country but also hurts people from all walks of life, The Express Tribune reported.

“While the stated aim of this bill is to curb sectarianism, HRCP believes it is likely to exacerbate the persecution of Pakistan’s beleaguered religious minorities and minority sects,” reads a press statement from HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani.

“At a time when civil society has been calling for amendments to these laws to prevent their abuse, strengthening this punishment will do the exact opposite,” the statement added.

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