LAHORE: A total of 34 people were killed extra judicially in Pakistan during 1990-2010 following charges of blasphemy, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The information obtained by the Tribune revealed that 15 of those killed were Muslims and 31 were killed in the Punjab.
16 of the murdered people were Christians, 15 Muslims, two Ahmadis and one a Hindu. All these people accused, of crimes under the blasphemy laws, were either killed extra judicially or found dead in prison under dubious circumstances.
Eight of these people died in the police custody. Five were killed by the police. One of them committed suicide and two were found dead in prison with the cause of their death unknown. Dr Mehdi Hasan, Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson, said that he believed that the extrajudicial killings raised questions in relations to the failure of the police security. “The HRCP has always been condemning such tragic incidents. We have long been campaigning for repeal of these laws,” he added.
Ali Dayan Hasan, the senior South Asia researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said that Pakistan would remain a laboratory for rights abuse in the name of religion if blasphemy laws were not repealed.
National Commission for Peace and Justice (NCPJ) is among the organisations calling for blasphemy laws repeal. NCPJ Executive Secretary Peter Jacob said, “In a society like Pakistan where people can be easily instigated into taking law in their hands, such laws should be immediately abolished.”
Religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi said that the Quran does not lay down a punishment for blasphemy. “In talking about these laws, one should understand the circumstances in which Ziaul Haq introduced them,” he said. He also said that the current laws were not Islamic.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2010.