UPDATE (PAKISTAN): Pakistan’s Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a Christian who was sentenced to death for blasphemy
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to overturn the conviction of Ayub Masia, a Christian who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, and the order of his immediate release.
On May 6, 1998, Ayub Masia’s death sentence had led a well-known Church leader, Bishop John Joseph, to sacrifice his life to protest. Bishop John Joseph fired a bullet into his head in front of the courtroom where Ayub Masia was sentenced to death on April 27, 1998 under the blasphemy law of Pakistan.
AHRC hopes that this overturned conviction will be a decisive momentum to repeal the blasphemy law of Pakistan, which has been condemned throughout the world for many years. Also, we urge the Pakistani authorities to release unconditionally all persons who have been charged for allegedly making blasphemous remarks.
If you want to know more about Bishop John Joseph’s sacrifice to abolish the deadly blasphemy law, please see our previous appeals at http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/1998/25/ and http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/1998/31/
Meanwhile, for your better understanding about the blasphemy law in Pakistan, we are attaching you the below article written by Babu Gogineni, Executive Director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
Thank you for your attention.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission
Blasphemy in Pakistan
The Blasphemy law in Pakistan is a shameful relic of the British Raj’s 1860 Criminal Law. It was modified in 1926 before Pakistan was born, and again as recently as in 1986 and in 1991 when criminal law was Islamicised by the then dictatorship. Now, under the regime of Islamic punishments, the evidence required is ‘at least two Muslim adult male witnesses who are supposed to be truthful persons who abstain from major sins’. It is required at the trial that the Presiding officer must be a Muslim. Islamic law of evidence declares that the evidence recorded by minorities and women has a status inferior to that of Muslim men.
In the case of Blasphemy, very often the accused is murdered either in police custody or even in the courtroom itself by bloodthirsty zealots. So few cases are even brought to fruition. General Pervez Musharraf’s recent attempts to improve the law has been met with vehement opposition from the clerics, and he immediately climbed down, in deference to the Islamic fundamentalists.
The law remains as barbaric as it was. And so is the mob. Pakistan’s minorities 3% of Pakistan’s 140 million citizens are non-Muslims; and there are at least 20 million Shiites, a minority Islamic sect in Pakistan. The situation for these minorities is desperate. The main victims of Pakistan’s discriminatory and repressive legislation so far have been the Ahmadias, the Christians and the Hindus – and the most victimized are the Christians and Ahmadias. Their evidence is not accepted, their rights to freedom of religion or belief not protected, they are not allowed high-positions in the Army or in the bureaucracy, and they are forced to vote under the separate electorate system, where non-Muslims vote for non-Muslims.
But the main concern of Pakistan’s Human Rights activists is the Blasphemy laws. Blasphemy of Islam is punished differently and much more severely than Blasphemy of other religions. There is no Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan. Bishop John Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Faizalabad even killed himself in protest in front of the session’s court of Sahiwal on May 6, 1998. But even this ultimate sacrifice did not move the administration or the legislature.
Pressure must mount from all quarters to enable the law to change, and to protect the victims. Pakistan’s theocracy is depriving many honest citizens of their liberty and their life.