Blasphemy accusations remain a sensitive, often perilous, reality in Pakistan. In recent years, we have seen significant increase in these accusations escalating to mob lynching incidents, from the killing of Mashaal Khan in 2017, to the torching of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara in December 2021. And while non-Muslim minorities remain extremely vulnerable to the blasphemy law’s gory violence, recent numbers confirm that Muslims too are frequently targeted.
As per a latest report, 42 Muslims were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan in 2021 alone. The report titled ‘Human Rights Observer 2022’, prepared by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), revealed that every second blasphemy accused happened to be a Muslim.
“As many as 84 individuals have been booked under the charges of blasphemy,” the report underlined. It further highlighted the 25 of them were Ahmadis – constitutionally excommunicated in Pakistan, hence counted as a non-Muslim minority. Seven Hindus and three Christians were among those accused last year.
The report further elaborated that a mammoth 81 per cent of the blasphemy related incidents happened in Punjab last year, with the three districts of Lahore, Kasur and Sheikhupura dominating. Meanwhile, seven such cases were reports in Islamabad, three in Sindh, five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one in the Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
Earlier this year, another detailed report shared the number of blasphemy victims since 1947. As per a report by The Centre of Research and Security Studies (CRSS) from 1947 to 2021, 89 citizens were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy. “The victims include 71 men and 18 women who became the target of extra-judicial killings in the country,” the report said. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men.
“Out of this total number, 1,287 were accused of blasphemy in a span of 10 years of 2011-2021,” the report established, which, analysts say, vindicated the rise of dangerous trend.
The report also mentioned that number could be much higher as a large number of such cases are not reported to the police.
Human Rights Without Frontiers maintains Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have equipped the Islamist hardliners. “The increasing trend of the misuse of this law intensified communal hatred, religious intolerance and persecution against religious minorities in Pakistan,” the report said.
Last year, European Union Parliament passed a resolution against to Pakistan, asking the country to repeal its blasphemy laws.
As per an investigation by interfaith council, blasphemy laws are also used to grab disputed land or to settle personal grudges, business rivalries and so on.
And while the non-Muslims are definitely more vulnerable, Muslims have long been targeting one another using the blasphemy law, which equips Islamists to target anyone with impunity.