Islamabad High Court suggests tougher punishment for blasphemy law abusers
The Islamabad High Court has suggested tackling the misuse of the blasphemy law by imposing the same punishment for those who misuse it or make false allegations, as the offence would attract.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also ordered the ban of Facebook in case the website management does not conform to Pakistani laws.
In March the court had issued a short order on a petition seeking blasphemous content being removed from social media.
In his judgement Justice Siddiqui said it was better to stop the blasphemy law from being exploited, instead of abolishing it.
He also explained how people use the blasphemy law to falsely implicate those whom they have personal grudge with.
However, under the existing law, the false accuser can only face proceedings under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK welcomed the Islamabad High Court’s judgement about amending the blasphemy law.
He said it is very unfortunate that despite being aware of the misuse of the law by people to take revenge and settle personal scores, with the very recent example of Mashal Khan, the government has failed to bring this law to parliament and amend it appropriately.
Mr Saeed said: “Although there is a long-standing demand from human rights organisations to repeal this law which is being widely misused, because of the government inadvertence it is has become a very sensitive issue and even demanding change in the blasphemy law is considered blasphemy itself.
“But this is another opportunity for the government to bring this matter to parliament and have a debate to reach some positive conclusion.”
He added that to stop its misuse, the government needs to introduce tough punishments for false accusers as the current punishment is very minor, especially as most of the time people take the law into their own hands and decide the fate of the accused, which normally leads to the killing of innocent people.
The justice system is also slow and provides no protection. Several people have been killed in police custody and if the case goes to court, it takes years to decide, leaving innocent people to suffer needlessly.
Ranjha Masih spent eight and a half years in prison before he was proved innocent and Asia Bibi has been languishing in prison from 1991. Her case is due to be heard by the supreme court of Pakistan but despite an early hearing appeal by her lawyer, there is still no sign that her case will be heard in the near future.
According to some reports, at least 80 people charged over alleged blasphemy offences have been killed, while dozens are languishing in jails because of false blasphemy accusations against them.