Massive increase of blasphemy charges in Pakistan

Facebook-post triggers pogroms: three Ahmadiyyah-Muslims killed

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), there has been a massive increase of blasphemy charges against Christians, Ahmadiyyah-Muslims, Hindus and moderate Muslims in Pakistan. "Never before have there been so many blasphemy charges or attacks on members of the religious minorities because of alleged blasphemy in Pakistan," said the STP's Asia-consultant, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Monday. On Sunday evening, a mother and her two minor daughters died in pogroms against members of the Ahmadiyyah-community in the city of Gujranwala. Eight people were seriously injured. About 150 enraged Muslims had set fire to five houses and a warehouse of the minority group. The pogroms had been triggered by allegations that a young man who lived in one of the houses had mocked the Prophet Mohamed with a blasphemous Facebook-post. He survived the attack unharmed.

On May 7, 2014, radical Islamists killed Rashid Rehman, a lawyer who was well-known for his commitment towards helping victims of blasphemy accusations. He had already received several death threats before. 68 Muslim lawyers were arrested for alleged blasphemy on May 14, 2014. They are said to have protested against the arrest of a lawyer in the name of the "Islamic empire". On May 17, a group of followers of the "Jehovah's Witnesses" was accused of having distributed leaflets mocking the Prophet Mohamed. On the same day, a blasphemy case was opened against a 20 year old Muslim who is accused of having burned a copy of the Quran. Also, investigations were initiated against the well-known media entrepreneur Shakeel-ur-Rehman and against three other prominent media-personalities.

In 2001, there was only one blasphemy trial in Pakistan, but the number had gone up to 80 by the year 2011. A total number of 27 cases was registered in 2012, and 34 people were charged with blasphemy in 2013. These trials often end up with long prison sentences or even death penalties. However, the death sentences were not yet enforced. On November 8, 2010, the Catholic Asia Bibi became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death. The mother of five is awaiting her fate in death row until today. Supporters at home and abroad managed to have her case reopened by an appeals court on September 9.

Ulrich Delius is available for further questions: +49 (0)551 499 06-27.