Human Rights Activists and Christians Hail Pakistan’s Supreme Court Progressive Judgement
Court Opens Door to Reforming Country’s Notorious Blasphemy Laws
10/29/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that human rights activists and Christians in Pakistan are hailing a recent Supreme Court judgment as a “hallmark” decision that has opened the door to Pakistan making positive reforms to the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. For many years, human rights groups have called for reform to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, noting that the laws are often abused to settle scores, for personal gain, or to incite hatred against vulnerable religious minorities.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, upheld the death sentence award to Malik Mohammad Mumtaz Qadri, a former elite force commando who assassinated former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 for allegedly committing blasphemy, earlier this month on October 7. On October 27, the three-judge bench issued its written judgment on the case in which it called for reforms to be made to the blasphemy laws in order to provide safeguards against their misuse and false allegations. In the judgement, the Court stated that, “[Reforms] should not be considered objectionable.”
“Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons,” the Court’s written judgment read.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa went on to write, “In the absence of adequate safeguards against the abuse of the blasphemy law, people falsely accused of the offence suffer irrevocably.”
Peter Jacob, Executive Director for the Center for Social Justice, told ICC, “It is yet another hallmark judgment by the Supreme Court after last June’s famous decision by Chief Justice Tassadua Jilani that has potential of adding to the protection of citizens from violent religious extremism. Through this judgment, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has ostensibly turned the tide on [the] oppressive environment against the discourse around rights and democratic values in this country.”
Jacob went on to say, “[The] Supreme Court calling for reforms to the blasphemy laws is an important take away from the Mumtaz Qadri case. Yet, minorities and liberal section in Pakistan, who have often been the targets of the laws misuse, might have to wait for complete success until the Parliament overcomes it lethargy and indecision.”
According to Ayub Sajid, Executive Director for the Organization for Development and Peace, “Such a judgement by our judiciary will impart a sense of security and protection among the vulnerable segments of the society and will build trust in the democratic process and implementation of the rule of law without biases.”
Naeem Shakir, a Christian High Court Lawyer and former defender of Asia Bibi, said, “This judgment by the Supreme Court is very encouraging and supportive for all those defending the victims of the blasphemy laws. It will promote the rule of law and is a message to all the extremists that the court will adjudicate such matters without fear and in accordance with the law.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “The Court’s judgement has provided hope to many that Pakistan may actually be able to reform its notorious blasphemy law. For many years, reform to the blasphemy laws was thought to be impossible because of the influence and fear of religious extremist groups in Pakistan. This recent judgement has opened the door for reform. Now, Pakistan as a society must take the next steps to walk through it. Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan have historically suffered under the country’s blasphemy laws. Disproportionately accused and convicted with little to no evidence, the call for adequate safeguards against false accusations is truly a step in the right direction.”