A parliamentary committee in Pakistan has sought clarifications on cases under the country’s blasphemy laws in its attempts to end “unjust” detentions and to develop standard procedures to address the suffering of religious minorities. Source: UCA News.
A total of 179 Pakistani citizens are in detention, awaiting trial for blasphemy, according to the Standing Committee on Human Rights of the Pakistani Senate, the upper house of the parliament, Vatican’s Fides news agency reported October 19.
The committee also noted that 17 people have been convicted of blasphemy and are awaiting a second trial.
It referred to recent data from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which described the statistics as “heartbreaking”.
The NHRC data was released following anti-Christian mob violence in Jaranwala in Punjab province which left 22 churches and 91 houses of Christians destroyed in August over alleged desecration of the Quran by two Christians.
Senator Walid Iqbal, chairman of the senate standing committee, sought clarification on blasphemy cases and called for the formation of a national coordination committee within the human rights ministry to develop procedures to address issues that cause suffering and unjust “collective punishment” to minority communities, the report said.
Senator Iqbal said he was concerned about “the misuse of blasphemy laws as a means to resolve personal issues.”
In Muslim-majority Pakistan, blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue. The nation’s Penal Code criminalises blasphemy with death and life sentences.
Critics say that blasphemy laws are often exploited to settle personal disputes and target minority groups like Christians who make up about 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s 241 million people.