Blasphemy Laws

This week’s FirstCast features Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Salmaan Taseer who was assassinated for publicly condemning the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. She is continuing her father’s work and has become an international voice for the victims of extremism and religious intolerance. Shehrbano has been speaking out against the forces that killed her father and against laws that persecute in the name of religion. Follow the link to listen to the podcast.

Letter from Civil Society Organizations to State Representatives: Excellency, We are writing to you to strongly urge your government to actively engage in the negotiations on the resolution on “combating defamation of religions”/”combating religious hatred and denigration of religions” at the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”) that is currently taking place.  Specifically, we urge your government to vote against any resolution which refers to “defamation of religions” or similar terms such as “vilification” and “denigration” of religions and religious symbols, and support a resolution which omits such terms and focuses on freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination in ways that properly reflect international human rights standards.

Des inconnus ont ouvert le feu et tué, mercredi 2 mars, le ministre des minorités religieuses pakistanais, le chrétien Shahbaz Bhatti, à Islamabad. Les talibans pakistanais ont revendiqué l'assassinat du ministre, expliquant leur geste par ses propos jugés blasphématoires. Des hommes armés ont tiré en rafale sur sa voiture dans un quartier huppé de la capitale, a indiqué un officier de policequi précise que les assaillants, au moins deux hommes à moto, ont pris la fuite. "Il était mort à son arrivée à l'hôpital, on lui a tiré dessus", a déclaré à l'AFP par téléphone le docteurAzmatullah Qureshi, porte-parole de l'un des plus grands hôpitaux d'Islamabad, le Shifah.

Gunmen shot and killed Pakistan’s government minister for religious minorities on Wednesday, the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam. Shahbaz Bhatti was on his way to work in Islamabad when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets, police officer Mohmmad Iqbal said. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital and his driver was also wounded badly, hospital spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi said.

Women’s Action Forum condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, whose principled stand for justice was deliberately and maliciously distorted by extremist elements in the country in the pursuit of their own political ends. Incitement to violence in the name of religion has become widely prevalent in the country and the state has failed in its duty to curb this mischief. The murder of Salman Taseer is part of a strategy adopted since the time of Zia ul Haq to misuse religion in order to undermine democratic dialogue and to establish religious autocracy. This is unacceptable in a Muslim majority country no particular group should be allowed monopoly over religious views. 

Bibi, the Christian woman who triggered a blasphemy furore in Pakistan and in whose defence Punjab governor Salman Taseer lost his life, is facing a threat of a suicide attack inside a jail, where she is currently lodged. The "Moaviya group", a militant organisation plans to mount a suicide attack on Sheikhupura district jail, where 45-year-old Asia is being held, The Express Tribunequoted its sources as saying. An intelligence report issued last week has corroborated threat to her life.

Amid announcements by the religious forces in the country to resist any move to change the blasphemy laws, former information minister and Pakistan People’s Party MNA Sherry Rehman has submitted a bill to the National Assembly Secretariat seeking an end to the death penalty under the existing blasphemy laws.

Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir has denounced the stay granted by the Lahore High Court against any action leading to a presidential pardon for Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death by a district judge on charges on blasphemy. Jahangir expressed surprise that a stay had been granted on an action that was yet to take place, and disapproved of the idea of suspending the constitutional prerogative of the Executive, the Dawn reported. Update to Pakistan: WLUML statement: Ensure the safety of Asia Bibi and her family and repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP) in collaboration with Women Workers Help Line, Kashf Foundation and Shirkat Gah organised a walk in solidarity with the women rights activists outside Lahore Press Club on Monday. 

The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is deeply shocked that a court in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, has sentenced a 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, to death on the charge of having committed “blasphemy”. Although illiterate, she has been accused of denying the institution of prophet-hood by citing copious examples from the key texts of Islam. We join local human rights organizations, international women’s groups and religious minorities in calling for Pakistan to urgently repeal its Blasphemy Laws. We also appeal to the authorities to guarantee the safety of Asia Bibi and her family from the rage of local extremists, as well as investigate the violent persecution of the Christian community in the Punjab.

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