Pak must repeal 'abominable' Blasphemy Law to stop abuse in name of religion: HRW

Lahore, Nov 24 (ANI): The Pakistan government should immediately introduce a legislation to repeal the country's Blasphemy Law, an independent organization dedicated to defending human rights has said.

"The government should also take legal action against Islamist militant groups responsible for threats and violence against minorities and other vulnerable groups," Human Rights Watch said in a press release.

Taking note of the case of Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother, who was charged under the blasphemy law following an altercation with fellow farm workers "who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was unclean because she was a Christian," the press release quoted Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, as saying, "Aasia Bibi has suffered greatly and should never have been put behind bars."

"Continued use of the blasphemy law is abominable. As long as such laws remain on the books, Pakistan will remain plagued by abuse in the name of religion," said Hasan, adding, "The injustice and fear the blasphemy law spawns will only cease when this heinous law is repealed."

A research by the group indicated that the police had not apprehended anyone implicated in such activity in the last several years, the statement said.

"Social persecution and legal discrimination against religious minorities has become particularly widespread in Punjab province. Human Rights Watch urged the provincial government, controlled by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, to investigate and prosecute as appropriate campaigns of intimidation, threats, and violence against Christians, Ahmadis, and other vulnerable groups," it added.

Hasan said that the Punjab government is "either in denial about threats to minorities or is following a policy of willful discrimination. Provincial law enforcement authorities need to put aside their prejudices and protect religious minorities who are clearly in serious danger from both the Taliban and sectarian militant groups historically supported by the state."

Since the Pakistani military government of General Zia-ul-Haq unleashed a wave of persecution in the 1980s, violence against religious minorities in Pakistan has never really ceased, said the statement.

The human rights group urged the "concerned governments and intergovernmental bodies to press the Pakistani government to repeal sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which includes the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws," and also press it for the prosecution of "those responsible for planning and executing attacks against religious minorities."

Pakistan's "Blasphemy Law," as Section 295-C of the penal code is known, makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. (ANI)

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