Pakistan: Campaign welcomes government calls for reform of blasphemy laws


Mashal Khan - killed by a mob

Mashal Khan - killed by a mob

Source: CLAAS

CLAAS, a charity which campaigns for religious freedom in Pakistan has welcomed calls from the Pakistani Parliament to reform the country's controversial blasphemy laws. This came after a university student was killed by a mob on April 14 after being accused of the offence which carries the death penalty for insulting Islam.

A resolution passed by the National Assembly condemned the lynching and stated that safeguards must be included in the law to stop it being abused in the future. Pakistan's top court is investigating the murder of the student, Mashal Khan, from Abdul Wali Khan University in north-western Pakistan, allegedly for his views on sufi Islam and socialism.

The blasphemy laws are a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, and vigilantes often take the law into their own hands and kill people accused of blasphemy. The student was brutally beaten to death over allegations he promoted 'blasphemous' content on social media.

Another student was injured in the incident which took place on the university premises, prompting officials to close the campus.

According to reports, a total of 45 people have been detained in connection with the mob attack.

Nasir Saeed Director CLAAS-UK has welcomed the parliament's resolution regarding introducing safeguards to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law, and to prevent the ongoing killing of innocent people.

"It is great news as in the past whoever tried to speak about changes in the blasphemy law was shut up and even threatened with death.

"Those who raised their voices, like Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were killed in broad daylight, and their killers hailed as heroes."

He further said it is encouraging that parliamentarian has agreed to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law and hopes it will stick to its word and give the matter priority.

"I wish the Pakistani parliament had taken this step and realised the sensitivity of the issue earlier, saving many innocent people who were killed for a crime they never committed. Their lives could have been saved, but it is still not too late."

Meanwhile Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, because she drank water from a Muslim well, remains in solitary confinement. Several other Christians are also in prison for similar offences.

CLAAS the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement is an interdenominational organisation working for Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan. CLAAS works for religious freedom, to stop persecution of Christians in Pakistan because of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, raise awareness, disseminate information and highlight the plight of Christians on an international level. CLAAS provides free legal aid to victims of religious intolerance in Pakistan, as well as shelter and financial support for the victims and their families. For more information see: www.claas.org.uk

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