European Parliament calls for abolition of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” law
A resolution adopted by the European Parliament has called for the abolition of Pakistan’s controversial “blasphemy” law.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) cite “an alarming increase in accusations of ‘blasphemy’”, adding that Pakistan’s judicial system does not deal properly with accusations due to judges’ fear of exonerating those falsely accused.
MEPs therefore called upon “the Government of Pakistan to review and ultimately abolish these laws and their application”.
The resolution argues that “people who are accused of blasphemy have to fear for their lives regardless of the outcome of judicial procedures”, while “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often abused by making false accusations”.
A particular example is given of Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, who were sentenced to death for “blasphemy” in 2014 and have not yet been allowed to appeal. The resolution notes the dearth of evidence against the couple, as well as that while in prison Shafqat Emmanuel has not been receiving adequate medical attention for a spinal injury.
The resolution also calls upon the European Commission and European External Action Service to review Pakistan’s GSP+ status, a status which waives tariffs on European Union imports from Pakistan.
This status is subject to whether countries such as Pakistan properly implement international conventions relating to human rights.
MEPs conclude that the blasphemy laws are “exacerbating existing religious divides and thus fomenting a climate of religious intolerance, violence and discrimination” as well as being “incompatible with international human rights laws”.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws (Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code) are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” and the lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).
Accusations frequently trigger mob violence and even killings. Christians acquitted of allegations live in fear of attack by zealous Muslim extremists and often can no longer return to live in their homes.
In April 2021 two Pakistani Christian nurses were rescued by police from an angry mob on 9 April after they were accused of “blasphemy” by hospital staff in Faisalabad.