Monday, November 29, 2010

Pakistan: Repeal Blasphemy Laws

Legal Discrimination  Emboldens Extremists

Human Rights Watch, November 23, 2010

A police official takes the thumb print of Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, on an affidavit stating her innocence after she was visited by the Governor of the Punjab Province Salman Taseer (R) at the central jail in Sheikhupura, Punjab Province, on November 20, 2010.
© 2010 Reuters
The Punjab provincial 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.
Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
(New York) – Pakistan’s government should immediately introduce legislation to repeal the country’s blasphemy law and other discriminatory legislation, Human Rights Watch said today. 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.

While international and Pakistani human rights groups have long called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, it has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks as a consequence of a death sentence imposed on November 8, 2010, on Aasia Bibi, an illiterate farmhand from Sheikhupura district in Punjab province. She was charged under the blasphemy law after a June 2009 altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was unclean because she was a Christian. She is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, though others have been charged and given lesser sentences.

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