UK MPs call for an end to Pakistan's blasphemy laws

By agency reporter
August 19, 2017

As Pakistan celebrates its 70th anniversary as an independent state, 24 British politicians, led by Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh, have written to the Pakistani government urging it to repeal its blasphemy laws, which have been used to persecute humanists and religious minorities. Humanists UK, which is part of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition, has welcomed the letter.  

Siobhan McDonagh, also chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ahmadiyya Muslims, stated that the Pakistani government has consistently committed discriminatory acts against minority religious groups, including ‘denying religious freedom, harassing, violently persecuting’, and sometimes, carrying out death sentences. The letter also states that the current use of these laws stands in ‘painful contrast’ to the vision of Pakistan’s founders.

Blasphemy laws were first introduced into what is now modern-day Pakistan in 1860 by the British, during the period of colonial rule in India. They continued to form part of Pakistan’s law after the creation of the country in 1947 following the partition of India, which was marked by widespread religious violence. Under the military government of General Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s these laws were expanded, culminating in 1986 when the death penalty was introduced as a punishment for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Recent years have seen many humanists and others persecuted under the laws. Taimoor Raza was handed a death sentence in June for a Facebook post. In April, humanist Mashal Khan was murdered by a mob of fellow University students for alleged blasphemy. And in January, five bloggers were abducted by security services, only to reappear weeks later following accusations of torture.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Laws against blasphemy are a denial of freedom of religion and belief and of freedom of speech and expression. For far too long, humanists and others have faced severe persecution in Pakistan, and we are delighted to see these politicians take a stand to try to force change.’

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/

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