“Unproven accusations of blasphemy have led to extrajudicial killings, mob lynching and violent protests targeting minority community members,” said a rights advocate. “We believe the blasphemy law is in conflict with the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens guaranteed in the constitution.”
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Members of some of Bangladesh’s religious minorities staged a protest last month calling on Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy legislation.
About a hundred Christians along with a substantial number of Hindus and Buddhists went to the High Commission of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 23 September, in Gulshan-2, Dhaka to deliver a memorandum for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, with copies for Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Asad Qaiser, Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan.
The initiative was the brainchild of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), a Christian rights group. Its president Nirmal Rozario told AsiaNews: “We call upon the authorities in Pakistan to drop all fabricated blasphemy charges against Christians and members of minority communities and release them with dignity. We also urge clemency for those already sentenced to death for blasphemy
“We are aware that blasphemy remains a contentious issue in Pakistan,” Rozario explained. “Hundreds of Pakistani Christians and members of other minorities have fled the country fearing for their lives over allegations of blasphemy. Unproven accusations of blasphemy have led to extrajudicial killings, mob lynching and violent protests targeting minority community members.
“We believe the blasphemy law is in conflict with the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens guaranteed in the constitution. The law is vague, arbitrary and leaves ample scope for misuse” as evinced in cases where people use it for personal reasons and out of “communal hatred, revenge and enmity against innocent people.
“Thus, we would like to draw the attention of the Government of Pakistan as well as lawmakers, politicians, the judiciary, civil society and the people of Pakistan” to the issue. “We demand the repeal of the blasphemy law as early as possible to save minority people in Pakistan.”
Nimchandra Bhowmick, a prominent Hindu leader, also noted that “Religious minorities are persecuted in Pakistan. It seems to me that the purpose of the blasphemy law is to persecute minorities. For this reason, I urge that the law be changed so that Pakistan’s minorities can live in peace.”
For Sunandaprio Bhikhu, secretary general of the Bangladesh Buddhist Federation, if Pakistan repeals the blasphemy law, people around the world will appreciate its action. “The blasphemy law is leading to the persecution of minorities with state power. It is not acceptable. I think, if Pakistan stops the blasphemy law, Pakistan will get more admiration worldwide.”
The protesters handed their request to the Police Commissioner to ensure that it reaches Pakistani authorities. BCA leaders sent the same request by post.
Meanwhile, Asif Prevaiz, 37, a Pakistani Christian, is the latest victim of the blasphemy law. He was sentenced to three years in prison for “misusing” his phone to send a derogatory text message. Then the court ruled that “he be hanged by the neck until death.” He was also fined 50,000 rupees (about US$ 300).
Pervaiz worked at a textile factory in the Youhanabad, Lahore. He was arrested by police in 2013 after his supervisor falsely accused him of sending him a message with defamatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
His death sentence came just days after another Christian, David Masih, was accused of blasphemy following the discovery of pages from the Quran in a sewer in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.