The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights body of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, has started collecting signatures in support of repealing the controversial blasphemy laws (especially Sections 295-B, C and 298-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code), which have been widely misused against religious minorities (mainly against Christians and Ahmadis) in Pakistan.
A press statement issued by the NCJP on August 25 in Lahore, the second biggest city of Pakistan, said that the campaign appeal seeks the immediate repeal of the laws, which are based on religion, referring to the violent attacks on Christian in Kasur, Gojra and other places.
In a recent incident on August 1, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian locality and burned 147 Christian houses and killed 9 Christians including 2 minors. Some Muslim religious and political leaders of the area instigated Muslims to attack on Christians because they have insulted Quran. While a provincial government minister stated that there was no such incident happed in that area.
In a joint statement by Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore and Peter Jacob, the Chairperson and the Executive Secretary of NCJP, said that successive governments have failed to take a serious notice of the misuse of the law; the procedural amendments to registration of cases have failed too. Therefore the repeal is the only solution to these flowed and presumptuous laws. They urged the parliament to repeal blasphemy laws since they are source of promoting religious intolerance and disharmony among the citizens.
The statement says, “The incident in Gojra is an example of abuse of the Blasphemy Laws and its far-reaching consequences; it has been abused to justify violence on the others. NCJP call upon the fellow citizens to understand effects of these sections on the society. The incidents over past 20 years have shown that a large number of Muslims have also become victims of these laws and suffered, therefore the situation demands a serious and long term remedy.”
According to data collected by NCJP, from 1986 to August 2009, at least 964 persons were alleged under this law. 479 of these were Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 were unknown. About 32 persons have been extra judicially murdered by the angry mob or an individual, the statement added.
Aftab Mughal is the Editor of Minorities Concern, a newsletter based in Pakistan.