PAKISTAN: Another person sentenced to death under blasphemy law


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-35-2002
ISSUES: Death penalty,

Another person sentenced to death under blasphemy law

PAKISTAN: Religious persecution and denial of religious freedom
Name: Mr. Anwar Kenneth, former Fisheries Dept. officer 
Court: Additional sessions court in Lahore 
Date of sentence: July 18, 2002 
Sentence: Death and fine of US$8,335


An additional sessions judge in Lahore imposed the death penalty and a fine of 500,000 rupees (US$8,335) on Mr. Anwar Kenneth, a former officer in the government’s Fisheries Dept., in a blasphemy case that was registered with the Gawalmandi police in Pakistan.

Mr. Kenneth was arrested by Gawalmandi police officer Zaffar-u-ullah on June 15, 2001, while distributing a pamphlet (Gospel of Jesus). As reported by Peace Worldwide, a Christian non-governmental organization (NGO) in Pakistan, Mr. Kenneth made a statement before the court that he had done nothing wrong. He also sent a copy of his letter to the Gawalmandi police after which a first investigation report (FIR) was lodged against him. A case of blasphemy was subsequently registered against Mr. Kenneth that resulted in the court issuing a death sentence against him on July 18, 2002.

Death sentences are being imposed in blasphemy cases on a regular basis in Pakistan. At least three death penalties have been issued in blasphemy cases in the past month. Prior to Mr. Kenneth’s death sentence, Mr. Kingri Masih was sentenced to death in a sessions court in Faisalabad on June 29. Subsequently, Mr. Wajih-ul-Hassan has been sentenced to death in Lahore on July 27.

Section 295C of Pakistan’s Penal Code provides the death penalty for "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of The Holy Prophet (Peace be Upon Him)

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to point out that this law is vague and open to abuse. Its unclear scope imposes a harsh burden on non-Muslims in Pakistan and is a severe limit on religious freedom, as it effectively targets religious minorities in Pakistan. The law has also often been used by those with personal grudges, as well as against Muslims who have converted to Christianity; when Pakistan’s leader, General Musharraf, considered amending the law to limit such potential abuses, pressure from Islamic hardliners caused him to abandon these amendments, so the law remains open to much abuse.

AHRC further points out that norms of international law require abolition of the death penalty or at least its restriction to the most limited possible set of crimes, with stringent legal protections. The application of the death penalty in the context of Pakistan’s blasphemy offence violates standards of international law.

Advocate Pervaiz Aslam Chowdhry, quoted by Peace Worldwide, said that there were errors in the proceedings in Mr. Kenneth’s case. According to Mr. Chowdhry, under both Pakistani and international law, a mentally disabled person cannot be convicted for a crime unless a certified board of doctors decrees that he or she is mentally stable enough to stand trial in a court of law. He said no action in this regard was taken to establish Mr. Kenneth’s state of mental health. 

Sources have said that Mr. Kenneth had called himself a prophet, that he claimed to receive revelations from God, and that he declined to appeal because he claims he will not die even if thrown into the fire. Observers say that this is indicative of his medical condition.

Bishop Samuel Azariah, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church of Pakistan, quoted by the BBC, says he knew Mr. Kenneth personally and believes he needs medical treatment. Social workers have also stated that Mr. Kenneth had a history of psychiatric problems.

Mr. Kenneth refused to opt for a defence and refused the help of a lawyer for a defence. Therefore, the case was concluded without a defence, and the conviction was made on the basis of Mr. Kenneth’s confession. There was no attempt to scrutinise the confession. Mr. Chowdry emphasised the importance of such careful scrutiny of a confession, especially when the maximum possible sentence is under consideration. He said that even the slightest doubt or legal gap should prevent the court from making a judgement, adding that it could be inferred from the speed with which this case was concluded that this did not happen in Mr. Kenneth’s case.

In 1992, an additional sessions court in Bahawalpur imposed the death sentence on Arshad Javed after he tried to stop a procession to condemn Salman Rushdie’s book "The Satanic Verses." Mr. Javed was later acquitted after a higher court looked to medical evidence on the state of his mental health and found him to be insane.

Similarly, Zahid Mahmood Akhtar, accused of blasphemy, was acquitted on the same grounds five years ago. However, he was stoned to death on July 6, 2002 after a panchayat (a group of honourable citizens or decision-makers) in his village, Chak Jhumra, decreed that he should be killed. The government immediately arrested around 30 members of the panchayat.

In the case of Mr. Kenneth, it was the responsibility of the court to have him examined by a medical board to gauge his mental stability before allowing him to face a trial. Why was this investigation not done in Mr. Kenneth’s case? Now, he faces a death sentence, and some sources report that threats have been made against his life by other prisoners in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.


Please write to the president of Pakistan and other government officials to call for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy law in general and, in particular, for the release and acquittal of Mr. Anwar Kenneth and others who have been sentenced under this law. 




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Re: Death sentence on Mr. Anwar Kenneth under Pakistan’s blasphemy law (imposed by additional sessions court in Lahore)

I write to express my extreme concern about the imposition of a death sentence for blasphemy, particularly in a case where there seem to have been legal errors. 

In general, Pakistan’s blasphemy law is vague and open to much abuse, as demonstrated in various cases such as those where it has been used by persons with personal grudges. It severely limits religious freedom and is discriminatory. Moreover, the use of the death sentence for this offence is extremely harsh. The law has also indirectly legitimised private citizens taking vigilante action to kill alleged blasphemers. 

In Mr. Anwar Kenneth’s case specifically, there is significant evidence that Mr. Kenneth was mentally unsound, so the court should have inquired into this, but it did not. The court simply accepted a confession without scrutinising it. This is a deeply concerning case of possible legal error.

I urge you to repeal Pakistan’s blasphemy law. I also urge you to intervene to ensure that Mr. Anwar Kenneth and others sentenced to death under this law are released and their death sentences quashed.

Thank you for your attention.


General Pervez Musharraf 
Chief Executive of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 
Prime Minister House, Islamabad, Pakistan 
Fax: +92-51-9201893 or +92-51-9201835 or +92-51-9204632 

Salutation: Dear General Musharraf 

Mr. Khalid Ranjha 
The Federal Minister 
Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights 
S-Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan 
Fax: +92-51-9202628 

Office of Attorney General of Pakistan 
S-Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan 
Fax: +92-51-9215852 
Res. Fax: +92-51-9220967 

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Please contact the Urgent Appeals coordinator if you require more 

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AHRC Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission 
Unit D, 7th Floor, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 
16 – 16B Argyle Street, Kowloon, HONGKONG 
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 
Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367 


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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-35-2002
Countries : Pakistan,
Campaigns : Blasphemy Law in Pakistan
Issues : Death penalty,