Violence against Christians in Pakistan – A better protection of the religious minorities is needed – Abolish the blasphemy laws!


After violent attacks against Christians took place in Pakistan, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) calls for a better protection of the religious minorities and demands the blasphemy laws to be abolished. "Christians, Shiites and Ahmadiyyah in Pakistan are not to be treated as fair game any longer," said Asia-consultant Ulrich Delius in Göttingen on Sunday. "It would be an effective step towards a better protection to abolish the controversial blasphemy paragraphs in Pakistan's criminal law immediately, because they are to be seen as a gateway to arbitrariness and a lynch law." Also, they are intensifying the tensions between the religious communities.

On Saturday, an angry mob had set fire to 160 houses – mostly inhabited by Christians – 18 shops and two churches in the city of Lahore. The attack was meant to be a revenge action because a Christian had allegedly insulted the Prophet Mohammed. Meanwhile, the authorities believe that 28-year-old Sawan Masih was falsely accused of the offense. The Christian was arrested by the police to protect him from the protesters.

"If Pakistan wants to appear credible before the UN Human Rights Council, the country must stop inciting violence against religious minorities," said Delius. Pakistan is a member of the UN Human Rights Council since January 1, 2013. "It is an indictment for Pakistan's security forces that they are unable or not willing to protect the religious minorities effectively against attacks by the Sunni majority." After more than 220 Shiites got killed in terrorist attacks by radical Sunnis since the beginning of the year, the burning houses of the Christians are another sign of how dramatic the situation for the religious minorities in Pakistan has become.

This is not the first time that a Christian had to be taken into custody by the police because his life was in danger due to blasphemy accusations. Blasphemy suspects must fear for their lives even when they are acquitted by a court – and there have been cases of fanatics murdering judges who acquitted suspects.

However, most of the allegations are unfounded – often merely based on neighborhood disputes, on envy or resentment. Even so, the Pakistani politicians are afraid of cancelling the controversial Paragraphs 295 and 298 from Pakistan's penal code for fear of protests by radical Sunnis. Pakistan's government has been promising to revise the critical paragraphs for more than a decade. "But nothing has happened – apart from lip service to appease other countries," said Delius. "By remaining passive, Pakistan's government is violating the country's national laws and also the general Charter of Human Rights and international human rights conventions."