Concerns have been raised about efforts to ramp up blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Those found in contradiction to the laws face abhorrent punishment – sometimes, even death.
The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2023 will see the official punishment for insulting the Prophet Mohammed’s companions, wives, and family members extended from a three-year prison sentence to life imprisonment. There are fears that the amendment will further fuel religious division in the country, after incidents of mob killings relating to blasphemy claims.
The Christian community in Jaranwala remains fearful in the aftermath of an attack by a Muslim mob last week, that vandalised hundreds of homes, churches, and businesses and left families destitute. The mob attack was sparked when two Christian brothers were charged with blasphemy for allegedly desecrating the Koran.
Last year, student Deborah Samuel was killed in a stairwell following allegations of blasphemy after she praised Jesus for helping her pass her exams. She published the message in a WhatsApp group chat. Her killers have still not been charged.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws criminalise anyone who insults Islam, including by “outraging religious feeling”. The laws are already open for abuse as they may be used as a weapon of revenge against both Muslims and non-Muslims to settle personal scores or to resolve disputes over money, property or business.