Sahiwal, Pakistan (July 1, 2024) — In a controversial decision, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Sahiwal has sentenced a Christian youth to death for allegedly circulating a blasphemous social media post that incited riots in Jaranwala. The judgment, announced on Monday, also includes a 22-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs1 million.

The young man Ehsan Shan was accused of sharing blasphemous content on TikTok, which led to a violent backlash in Jaranwala. Following allegations of desecration of a copy of the Holy Quran, mobs vandalized dozens of Christian homes and approximately 20 churches. A complaint was lodged by a police officer, leading to the apprehension of the accused three days after the riots. According to the police, the youth did not produce the blasphemous content but shared it, causing it to go viral.

The final judgment outlined multiple punishments: a death sentence and a fine of Rs500,000 under Section 295(C), 10 years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 295(A), seven years under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, and five years plus a Rs500,000 fine under 7(1)(G)-ATA.

This case has reignited debates over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and their implications. Just in March, another ATC acquitted two Christian brothers who had been framed for desecration due to personal enmity, according to a police probe. The severity of the sentencing and the violence that ensued underscore the volatile nature of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan, drawing attention to the urgent need for legal reforms and protections for minority communities.

Recent criticisms have been directed at Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, particularly Sections 295-A, B, and C, for their broad and vague provisions that are often misused to target minority communities and settle personal scores. Reports highlight numerous cases where individuals, including Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis, have been falsely accused and imprisoned. Mere accusations can lead to mob violence, extrajudicial killings, and mass protests, creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

A recent mob lynching in Sargodha, where most of the accused individuals were released on bail, exemplifies the increasing trend of mob violence in Pakistan, further exacerbating the insecurity felt by Christians. The misuse of blasphemy laws and the lack of judicial action not only undermine Pakistan’s national fabric but also have significant international repercussions.

Resolutions to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law and mob lynching, aiming to protect minorities, have been unanimously passed by the Punjab Assembly, National Assembly, and Senate. However, the implementation of these resolutions remains a critical issue.

This case continues to attract international attention and calls for urgent legal reforms to ensure the protection and equal treatment of all citizens in Pakistan.