Pakistan: Charges of blaphemy filed against 68 lawyers

Monday, May 19, 2014

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- Sixty-eight lawyers in Punjab have all been charged with blasphemy after participating in a series of protests against a senior Pakistani police official, according to International Christian Concern.

During the protests, a Sunni claimed that the lawyers had insulted the name of a revered religious figure who just happens to share the same first name of the police official; a few days later, a formal complaint was lodged against all 68 lawyers.

"The hatred and extremism fostered by the blasphemy law has brought Pakistan's society to the edge," Gulnaz Yousaf, Chairperson of Dignity First, told ICC. "Now, no one can have any doubt regarding the abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. For decades, the law has been abused as a tool to settle personal scores."

Last month, a court in Gojra sentenced Christians Shafkat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar to death for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages despite evidence to the contrary. And in March, a court in Lahore sentenced Christian Sawan Masih to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammed during a drunken argument with a Muslim neighbor. The three join Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was the first woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law.

"This series of incidents involving Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law should clearly highlight the abuse of the law for the international community," said ICC's Regional Manager, William Stark. "Originally written to protect against religious intolerance, the law has warped into a tool used by extremists to settle personal scores and persecute Pakistan's vulnerable religious minorities. In 2013, 36 individuals were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. Of that 36, 30 were religious minorities, 12 of which were Christians. Given that Christians only make up 2 percent of Pakistan's population, the fact that one third of blasphemy accusations made in 2013 were leveled against Christians is highly disturbing ..."