The Pakistani National Assembly has amended one of its blasphemy laws to increase the punishment for insulting Prophet Muhammad’s companions, wives, and family members, and other sacred personalities. Offenders can face up to 10 years in prison.
These kind of laws often target Christians in the form of mob violence. Ahmadi Muslims also are frequently the target of these draconian laws.
Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code states that a person who makes derogatory remarks about Muhammad, either spoken or written, “shall be punished with death, or imprisonment of life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
In 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that at least 60 people were killed extrajudicially in mob violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990, as the CBN noted.
Human rights activists shared their concerns about the new amendment with the New York Times. “The new legislation is very worrying,” said Saroop Jiaz, the senior counsel for Human Rights Watch in Asia. “Pakistan’s existing blasphemy laws have enabled and encourage legal discrimination and persecution in the name of religion for decades.”
Nadeem Anthony, a human rights lawyer, told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) that the amendment will “encourage religion-based hatred and violence.”
This new bill, as Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted, ignores the “long-standing demands of civil society organizations and minority community leaders for the repeal of the blasphemy laws.”
The international community must do more to hold the Pakistani government to account.