General

Amendments to blasphemy laws create further room for persecution 

Lahore, January 20, 2023 (PPI-OT):The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expresses its deep concern over the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023, which was passed unanimously in the National Assembly on 17 January. 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.

The proposed legislation increases the punishment for using derogatory remarks against holy persons-including the Prophet (PBUH)’s family, wives and companions, and the four caliphs-from three years with a fine to imprisonment for life ‘which will not be less than ten years’. The bill also makes the offence non-bailable, thereby directly violating the constitutionally guaranteed right to personal liberty under Article 9.

Given Pakistan’s troubled record of the misuse of such laws, these amendments are likely to be weaponized disproportionately against religious minorities and sects, resulting in false FIRs, harassment and persecution. Moreover, increasing the penalty for alleged blasphemy will aggravate misuse of the law to settle personal vendettas, as is often the case with blasphemy allegations. 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.

For more information, contact:
Chairperson,
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
Aiwan-i-Jamhoor, 107-Tipu Block,
New Garden Town, Lahore-54600
Tel: +92-42-35864994
Fax: +92-42-35883582
Email: hrcp@hrcp-web.org
Website: www.hrcp-web.org