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PAKISTAN: Christian couple granted bail in blasphemy case: ‘Landmark decision’

PAKISTAN: Christian couple granted bail in blasphemy case: ‘Landmark decision’

By Anugrah Kumar

Christian Post (23.10.2023) – A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian couple accused of blasphemy, citing insufficient evidence. A rights group has called it a “landmark judgment,” which has sparked calls for changes to the nation’s controversial blasphemy laws.


Kiran Bibi and Shaukat were granted bail on Oct. 18 by Additional Sessions Court Judge Mian Shahid Javed, UCA News reported, adding that the couple had been accused of defiling the Quran.


Javed cited a lack of evidence of “willful damage or defilement of the original text of the Holy Quran” under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.


Nasir Saeed, director of the U.K.-based Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, or CLAAS, lauded the decision in a statement shared with The Christian Post.


“This landmark judgment breaks from the norm,” Saeed added.


In Pakistan, violating Section 295-B could lead to life imprisonment. The couple was accused by Muhammad Tamoor, who claimed to have seen Quranic pages fly out of the couple’s house on Sept. 8.


Tamoor claimed he had been given access to the house by Kiran Bibi. She suggested the pages might have been accidentally thrown by her children — all minors. The court noted gaps in the evidence and report.


CLAAS also mentioned the court found no credible eyewitness testimony that backed the severe allegations. Questions were raised about the actual perpetrator.


The couple’s bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($357). The court ordered police to conduct further inquiries into the allegations.


Saeed welcomed the call for further investigation. “This decision underscores the importance of a thorough investigation to establish the facts and ensure justice prevails,” he was quoted as saying.

He also emphasized the need for changes in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. These laws have led to sentences of death or life imprisonment, although no executions have occurred.


In August, attacks against Christians occurred in Jaranwala town, where churches and homes were torched following blasphemy accusations against two local Christians.

Christians make up roughly 1.6% of Pakistan’s 241 million population.


In a separate case last August, a two-member Supreme Court bench granted bail to another Christian who was also accused of blasphemy against Islam.


Justices Qazi Fael Isa and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah ordered the release of Salamat Mansha Masih, expressing concern about the frequency of blasphemy accusations. The state must protect suspects until cases are resolved, the justices said.


In another instance, a sessions court granted bail to two Christian nurses in September 2021. It was the first time bail was granted in a blasphemy case at this level, attorneys noted at the time.


Accusations often lead to mob violence, with little consequence for false accusers.


Lower courts often bow to Islamist pressure, leading to numerous convictions. In January, a Muslim woman was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy via text messages, marking another rare instance of such a ruling against a Muslim.


In December 2021, a mob killed a Sri Lankan man over blasphemy allegations. Although arrests were made, no legislative changes have occurred to curb false accusations.

Photo Source : CLAAS

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

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PAKISTAN: Leading Shiite cleric arrested based on new blasphemy law

Photo: Arrested: Shiite cleric Agha Baqir Al Hussaini. From Facebook.

PAKISTAN: Leading Shiite cleric arrested based onn new blasphemy law

“Bitter Winter” correctly predicted that new penalties against those who “offend the wives and companions of the Prophet” were intended for cracking down on Shiites.

By Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (06.09.2023) – We wish we had been wrong. But we weren’t. After a test case against a Sunni retired teacher, Pakistan amended last month Article 298-A of its Criminal Code, which is part of its blasphemy laws and punishes those who disrespect “the Prophet’s wives, family, close companions, and the Righteous Caliphs.” The penalty passed  from one month to three years in jail to a minimum of ten years to life imprisonment, plus a fine of one million rupees.

“Bitter Winter” reported that the government had amended Article 298-A under pressure from radical anti-Shiite Sunni movements, and that Shiites would risk severe jail penalties. In fact, in Shia literature one can find curses against Aisha, the third and youngest wife of Muhammad, for her role in denying that Ali, whom the Shiites regard as their founder, was the legitimate successor of the Prophet, and against those companions of the Prophet who sided against Ali.

We were not alarmist, and what we denounced as a possibility has already happened, as soon as the new law entered into force. A prominent Shiite cleric, Agha Baqir al-Hussaini, was arrested in Skardu, the largest city in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

He had presided a meeting in mid-August denouncing the new law and stating that Shiites cannot and will not renounce their criticism of those relatives and companions of the Prophet who denied Ali’s succession. As a result, on August 22, local Sunnis took to the street demanding his arrest.

The Shiite cleric was arrested at the end of August. The arrest generated new and larger protests in Skardu, this time by Shiites. It was the largest protest in the history of the city of Skardu.

Demonstrations became national, as documented on social media, creating a serious risk of sectarian violence.

All this was highly predictable when the blasphemy law was amended. However, the Pakistani government preferred to humor the radical fundamentalists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistanrather than protecting religious minorities and avoid inter-Islamic conflict.

Photo: Massive protests by Shiites in Skardu supporting Agha Baqir Al Hussaini. From Twitter.


Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

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PAKISTAN: Religious intolerance is burning in Punjab province

PAKISTAN: Religious intolerance is burning Pakistan

The recent mob violence against Christian minorities in Punjab province is just the latest reminder of how deep and wide the roots of religious intolerance have grown.

By Mariyam Suleman Anees


The Diplomat (25.08.2023) – In 2017, a 23-year-old university student, Mashal Khan, was killed in mob violence over allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Since the lynching occurred within his university’s premises, the case became a topic of heated discussion in universities and educational institutions across the country. It sparked a debate over increasing religious intolerance and the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

But the debate and discussion back then appears to have borne no results.

On August 7, Abdul Rauf, a young teacher in Turbat, a town in Balochistan province, was killed by unknown armed men on blasphemy allegations. “He was on his way to attend a jirga (a traditional assembly) of ulema (religious leaders) to explain his position, but he was shot before he could do so,” Sadia Baloch (named changed), a student activist in Balochistan told The Diplomat.

Killings and mob violence following blasphemy allegations are not new in Pakistan. Indeed, over the decades, hundreds of people have been falsely accused and many killed in targeted sectarian attacks.

Pakistan is a largely Sunni Muslim country, with significant religious and sectarian minority populations, including Shia Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Ahmedis, who are declared non-Muslim by the state, are perhaps the worst targets of persecution.

In Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, Shias are often targets of violence, while the Ahmedi community is treated as heretics. Hindus and Christians, especially from the lower-ranked castes, face extreme violence as well.

Young rural girls of the Hindu community from Pakistan’s southwestern province of Sindh have reportedly been abducted and forced into religious conversion and marriage. In the rare instance of such cases making their way into the media spotlight and land before the courts, judges usually rule that the conversion was out of choice and voluntary. The women are forced to live with their abusers for the rest of their lives.

There is no comparison when it comes to deciding which form of violence based on religious intolerance is worse. While forced conversion and targeted sectarian killings have affected millions in the country, misuse of blasphemy laws, vigilantism, lynching, personal vendettas, burning down entire communities, and destroying places of worship are all human rights crises and symptomatic of collective social disorder.

According to a 2021 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report, instances of mob violence and criminal charges over religious issues are more common in Pakistan than anywhere else.

One of the reasons is that the country’s law and order system has a poor record of protecting citizens, especially those from minority communities.

But the system outdid itself in mid-August when police failed to prevent or halt armed and rampaging mobs, who attacked the Christian community in Jaranwala in Punjab province, attacking, looting and setting ablaze their houses, churches and businesses.

It all began when several pages of the Quran were discovered near the Christian community with alleged blasphemous content inscribed on them. According to reports, the pages were taken to a local religious leader, who urged protest and demanded the arrest of the culprits. But before the matter could be further investigated, armed men marched into the Christian neighborhood and unleashed violence.

“[The mob] managed to destroy an entire community and their places of worship, this must have taken several hours,” Waiza Rafique a lawyer in Lahore says. “The question is, how come the police and the law enforcement agencies only arrived when most of the damage was already [done]?”

Pakistani society underwent a process of Islamization beginning in the 1980s, when General Zia used religion to legitimize his military coup. It resulted in the Islamization of Pakistani society and its institutions.

“Religion is deeply entrenched in all our institutions. It is embedded in politics, education and the media,” Sadia Baloch said, pointing out that “there is no proper understanding of the religious scriptures, but a mere indoctrinating of masses towards extremism.”

The origin of Pakistan’s blasphemy law is often traced back to the British colonial era, but it was hardly used until the 1970s. The law was strengthened during the Islamization of the state during Zia’s regime.

According to Pakistan’s penal code, “derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad] either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” People have often misused this to settle personal disputes. In such cases, even before any investigation begins, vigilantes take the law into their hands and go on a rampage.

Although laws in Pakistan also prohibit discrimination on account of religion, these are rarely implemented. What is more, police and other law enforcement agencies are not trained to handle vigilante mobs.

There are several initiatives at the community level to defuse tensions before they explode into violence.

According to Elaine Alam, a human rights practitioner based in Lahore, “Women from the Hindu and Christian minorities collectively mediate and solve local issues, preventing them from turning into disputes or preventing disputes from turning into inter-religious violent conflict.”

However, political institutions and the criminal justice system have yet to take any practical steps to curb violence at the societal level. False allegations of blasphemy, mob lynching, marginalization and persecution based on religion are triggering alarming levels of religious violence. There is an urgent need for reforms in the education, social and criminal justice systems.

Photo: A Christian woman weeps after looking at her home vandalized by an angry Muslim mob in Jaranwala in the Faisalabad district, Pakistan, Thursday, Aug, 17, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/K.M.Chaudary

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

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PAKISTAN: Religious freedom is withering in that troubled country

PAKISTAN: In Pakistan religious freedom is withering in that troubled country




The Hill (25.08.2023) – The torching of churches in Pakistan has brought to global attention the dire state for religious minorities in that troubled country.

Matters related to blasphemy represent health and safety hazards for all involved, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. But the threats to minorities are particularly acute, as demonstrated by unchecked mobs ransacking churches and Christian homes in the town of Jaranwala over false allegations of blasphemy.

Pakistan has the notorious distinction of having the harshest blasphemy law in the world, with dozens and dozens jailed. According to observers, “so far this year, at least 59 cases of blasphemy have been reported, while four individuals have been murdered under such allegations.”

But radicals want more.

Elections are horrible times for religious minorities, and especially so in Pakistan. The country’s political upheavals continue with no end in sight, as the sentencing of former Prime Minister Imran Khan to three years in jail will bring little calm, further exacerbating political conflict and dysfunction. In this turmoil, extremists, aided and abetted by authorities, continue to attack those who believe differently, with increasingly little hope for state protection.

With elections called, the likelihood of increased attacks runs high as politicians scramble to court the extremist vote.

Already this year, the extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) successfully pushed for harsher penalties, and politicians responded. To head off TLP’s long march on Islamabad, then-Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif signed off in June on a 12-point agreement that would, among other things, create a counter-blasphemy wing within the Federal Investigation Agency and establish a social media filter to remove blasphemous content.

But that wasn’t enough. In August, the Senate passed a law increasing, to 10 years to life in prison, the penalty for blasphemy deemed to insult Muhammad’s companions, wives and family members. Other bills that gave sweeping powers to Pakistan’s all-powerful military were also rushed through. Although many consider the blasphemy system to be already rife with corruption and abuse, politicians did not bother to incorporate reforms into the process. Instead, they cut procedural corners and rushed the bill through the lower and upper house, to the point that Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Riaz Hussain Pirzada, wrote Sharif expressing concern about the process used to pass the bill. In doing so, Pirzada risked his own safety, as ministers have been killed for less.

Religious freedom watchdog CSW also fretted that the legislation was “approved without debate by Pakistan’s parliament despite the fact that existing blasphemy legislation has resulted in extra-judicial killings and countless incidents of mob violence based on false accusations.”

The mob attacks followed on Aug. 16, with advocates reporting 19 churches entirely burned out and 89 Christian homes destroyed. Based on past experience, mob leaders have little fear of punishment, despite authorities arresting more than 100 individuals for suspected involvement. Authorities also charged two Christians for alleged blasphemous activity. It is much more likely the two Christians will spend years in jail than any of the vandals who torched churches and homes.

Bishop Azad Marshall of the Church of Pakistan called for an “end to Judicial Apartheid through the fair and equal application of laws between the majority and minority populations” at a press conference with Muslim leaders. Similarly, Pakistani Catholic cleric Michael Nazir-Ali wrote that the attacks are “the result of legal extremism as in the blasphemy laws and their misuse, the changing of mentalities through the teaching of hate in books, and appeasing extremist movements in their demands for more extremist measures.” He concluded, “Christians will not be the only community to be targeted.”

One example is the ongoing destruction of Ahmadi Muslim places of worship and graveyards across Pakistan. Hated by extremists and discriminated against by the state, neither the Ahmadis nor their sanctuaries nor cemeteries are safe. The community has tracked 15 attacks on their mosques and cemeteries this year. Authorities rarely, if ever, intervene to stop these attacks, and those who assault are never held to account, thus contributing to a climate of impunity.

Even worse, in four instances this year, the police themselves tore down the minarets. In increasingly radicalized Pakistan, Ahmadis are the perfect scapegoat. It is politically smart to court the anti-Ahmadi vote, or at least to be silent about the Ahmadis’ precarious situation.

In theory, Pakistani law protects different religious practices. The torching of churches just days after Pakistan’s 76th anniversary of nationhood is a tragic indictment of the country’s health.

Many politicians and generals quoted the nation’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, during events. But Jinnah had spoken about religious minorities at the Constituent Assembly in 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Unfortunately, those words are honored in the breach while churches burn and Ahmadi mosques are dismantled.

Amid Pakistan’s political turmoil and with elections on the horizon, any hope of reform has disappeared for now. In fact, things could get worse. Politicians will be tempted to play to base instincts about faith and flag, drawing the lines narrowly around certain theologies while excluding others.

Already, a Quran-burning in Sweden has resulted in mass protests in Pakistan. Seeing the results of such emotive issues, extremist parties such as TLP will push their extreme agenda, likely forcing more mainline parties to lurch rightward to compete for this vote in a tight election.

The church burnings are not an outlier but a symptom of repression and discrimination that is aided and abetted by the state. While positive Pakistan’s political leadership expressed solidarityvisited the Christian community, and condemned the violence, election seasons present politicians opportunities to curry favor with extremists. In Pakistan’s unstable environment, religious minorities provide useful strawmen for creating scapegoats and justifying promises of “reform.” One party will win, but without real reform and accountability for violence, religious minorities will lose regardless of the outcome.

Photo: Pakistani Christians hold a demonstration condemning the recent attack on a Christian area by an angry Muslim mob, In Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

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PAKISTAN: “The GSP+ and blasphemy laws in Pakistan in the dock”

José Luis Bazan (COMECE)

EU-PAKISTAN: “The GSP+ and blasphemy laws in Pakistan in the dock”

Blasphemy legislation in Pakistan: Which response should be given by the EU?”

By José Luis Bazan, Legal Adviser for International Religious Freedom, Migration and Asylum, COMECE Secretariat, Brussels

HRWF (10.05.2023) – On 8 May, HRWF organized a conference titled “EU-Pakistan: Human rights, religious freedom and the GSP+”, at the Press Club in Brussels. MEP Peter van Dalen who has for years been a staunch defender of human rights in Pakistan could not be present but he sent us a video (Minute 14’32”) with a strong message on the issue.

NGO representatives in Belgium, Pakistan, Italy and the US participated in the event addressing a series of serious issues. HRWF has the pleasure to present you parts of José Luis Bazan’s contribution to the debate:

“What is the GSP+?

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is an EU scheme which grants privileged access (reduced or zero duties) to the EU market to products from certain less developed countries. When the eligible country gets GSP+ status, its products across approximately 66% of all EU tariff lines enter the EU market with 0% duties.

To become a beneficiary of the GSP+ status, the beneficiary country must demonstrate a tangible progress on the implementation of 27 international treaties regarding labour rights, good governance, climate and environment, and human rights (including freedom of religion and other rights pertaining to religious minorities and their members).

Why Pakistan?

The European Single Market, with over 440 million consumers, is Pakistan’s most important destination. Pakistan exports worth EUR 5.4 billion, namely garments, bedlinen, terry towels, hosiery, leather, sports and surgical goods. Pakistani exports to the EU are dominated by textiles and clothing, accounting for 75.2% of Pakistan’s total exports to the EU in 2020.

The GSP+ has been very beneficial for Pakistani business, increasing their exports to the EU market by 65% since the country joined GSP+ in 2014. As a result of the GSP+, more than 76% of Pakistan’s exports enter the EU duty and quota free. This represents almost 20% of Pakistan’s exports globally.

Pakistan is a country of high concern for its systematic and serious religious freedom and other human rights’ violations.

On 29 April 2021, the European Parliament called on the Commission and the European External Action Service to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of recent human rights abuses, as “the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors, with a sharp rise in targeted killings, blasphemy cases, forced conversions, and hate speech against religious minorities (…); whereas abduction, forced conversion to Islam, rape and forced marriage remained an imminent threat for religious minority women and children in 2020, particularly those from the Hindu and Christian faiths”.

On 16 January 2023, six UN Special Rapporteurs expressed alarm at the reported rise in abductions, forced marriages and conversions of underage girls and young women from religious minorities in Pakistan and called for immediate efforts to curtail these practices and ensure justice for victims.

We must also pay attention to the violation of the educational freedom of students and parents of religious minorities in the education system:

  • The new Single National Curriculum (SNC) violates the right not to receive religious instruction against the religious beliefs of parents and those of the child: it imposes Muslim instruction in non-religious mandatory subjects (History, Mathematics…).
  • The evaluation system that empowers the knowledge of Islam giving extra points to them, discriminating non-Muslim students.
  • Authorised schoolbooks promote Islam among non-Muslim students in public schools.

On Jan. 17, 2023, the Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously voted to expand the country’s laws on blasphemy extending the punishment to those deemed to have insulted the Muhammad ‘s wives, family and companions, with 10 years in prison or life imprisonment. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has asked the Government, through its police, to deal more carefully with blasphemy cases and avoid the misuse of blasphemy laws,[1] in a process in August 2022.

The extreme social and legal vulnerability of members of religious minorities in Pakistan, most of them belonging to the poorest sections of society, make them easy targets of abuse, with no real possibility of claiming their human rights in a due process, often denied in law or in fact, in a context where the police and judicial authorities (particularly those of the lower courts) show little or no interest in prosecuting the crimes of which they are victims and in protecting their fundamental rights.

Why now?

The European Commission proposed on 22 September 2021 a new GSP Regulation, as the current one in force expires on 31 December 2023. New international conventions will be added to the list of obligations that GSP countries should respect.

An EEAS/European Commission report which will be adopted by the College of Commissioners and addressed to the Council and Parliament should have been published at the beginning of 2023.

The proposed GSP regulation requires the approval of the Parliament and the Council through the ordinary legislative procedure. This increases the political nature of the GSP+ which will be more than a mere trade agreement. Unlike the European Parliament, the EU Council wishes to maintain the Commission proposal to make GSP aid to beneficiary countries conditional on the readmission of their nationals who are illegally present in the EU. This issue was the subject of a debate characterised by particularly strong German opposition. A comprehensive EU-Pakistan dialogue on migration was launched in November 2022, with Commissioner Johansson visiting Pakistan.

Once adopted, the new EU GSP Regulation will apply from 1 January 2024 for 10 years.

The European Commission extended Pakistan’s GSP+ status  but it will have to re-apply for get the GSP+ status before the end of 2015. Meanwhile, the current preferences continue to be applied.

Conclusions and proposals

This situation calls for a reassessment by the European Commission in its future discussions with the Pakistani authorities on the preservation of the country’s status as a beneficiary of GSP+ status, as it is clear that Pakistan shows little respect for the above-mentioned international obligations, in particular in relation to the country’s religious minorities. In addition, some report about how the ruling elite in Pakistan had used this instrument for their personal gains.[2]

Clear and precise demand for due legislation and practice should be made to Pakistani authorities in relation to religious freedom and minorities, as a condition to the GSP+ renewal, including:

Specific measures, such as:

  1. Transfer of all blasphemy law cases to courts in the capital to avoid social pressure against first instance magistrates on the ground.
  2. Immediate police protection of accused of blasphemy, and possible transfer to a safe place along with his family.
  3. Criminal prosecution of false denouncers of blasphemy cases and severe punishment imposed upon them.
  4. Disciplinary measures to members of the police and law enforcement bodies that don’t protect the accused of blasphemy or mishandle the case.


General measures, such as:

  1. Reform of the National Single Curriculum and school textbooks with an appropriate portrayal of indigenous religious minorities, including their historical presence in the land, and their contribution to the country.
  2. Due investigation, prosecution and condemnation of perpetrators of crimes against members of religious minorities.
  3. Special Prosecutor/Court to protect minors belonging to religious minorities, including e.g., young girls against forced marriage, and an enforced ban of child marriage, making their consent non-valid in cases where the girl belongs to a religious minority.”

See the full conference on YouTube:


More reading

Business Morning

EU Reporter

EU Political Report

[1] http://www.fides.org/en/news/72797-ASIA_PAKISTAN_The_Supreme_Court_more_attention_to_blasphemy_cases_to_protect_the_innocent_and_guarantee_a_fair_trial

[2] https://www.lokmattimes.com/international/pakistan-defeated-gsp-purpose-benefits-under-serious-threat/


Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website

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