Published in The Pakistan Christian Post on Nov. 16 ::
The government must clearly demonstrate its stance to prevent extra-judicial killings and attack on minority settlements in the cover of misuse of blasphemy laws. This was emphasized by the human rights defenders during a consultation meeting held on November 13, 2014 at Faisalabad under the banner of the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and Rights of Expression, Assembly, Association and Thought (REAT).
Speaking on the occasion, a social activist, Iftikhar Ahmed said, “No political party has courage to take a bold stance on the abuse of blasphemy laws despite witnessing its bad effects on the society.” “The incidents of alleged blasphemy have also had an impact on the vulnerability of lawyers and judges, as well as on the accused and their families, resultantly dozens of blasphemy suspects have become victims of extra-judicial killings. The police seem helpless to tackle situation caused by blasphemy charges,” he added.
A representative of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), Arif Ayaz said, “Majority of the people do not oppose blasphemy laws, but speak against its misuse for vested interests, because mostly family, personal, professional jealousy or property issue has led to the misuse of this law to settle personal scores against their opponents.” “Nobody is willing to address this issue despite the fact that these laws are frequently misused to victimize people, therefore, the media and political parties must take up this sensitive issue very seriously, and build debate and consensus for bringing about reforms in it,” he suggested.
Hashmat Barkat Advocate said, “The successive governments have completely failed to tackle abuse of blasphemy laws, as these laws are repeatedly exploited by influential actors as a tool to harass and curtail religious minorities and working class.”
The program director of the AWAM, Naseem Anthony said, “The human rights defenders should critically analyze the material being published in the media, which cause disharmony and intolerance among diverse communities.” “There is a need to publish positive material promoting social harmony and peaceful coexistence rather than intolerance and prejudice, with the intension to influence public attitudes and behaviors as positive change in thoughts and standpoints serve as a catalyst to reform laws and policies free of discrimination on any grounds,” he added.
The director of the Peace and Human Development (PHD Foundation), Suneel Malik said, “All blasphemy cases should be heard at high courts and the complainant in such cases must be equally penalized whenever blasphemy accusation proven false and malicious. The accused and his family must be given adequate protection and security during the course of trial.”
A social activist, Naveed Walter said, “Both Muslims and non-Muslims suffer from allegedly false charges and misuse of the blasphemy laws, so people avoid talking about it due to the terror caused by its abuse in the society.” “The government must create a strict law to prevent abuse of blasphemy laws and punish the elements instigating violence in the name of religion and creating tension among the communities to disrupt the peaceful co-existence,” he demanded.
A journalist, Shafiq Sharif said, “The religious minorities across the country come under threat whenever any allegation whether true or false, about the defamation of the religion is put against any person belonging to a minority group. They face a feeling of fear and deprivation, and they are left insecure economically, socially and culturally; resultantly they mostly prefer to migrate to safer places in an attempt to avoid any untoward incident.”
A social activist, Faisal Rasheed said, “Those laws cause destruction in the society, which are created to promote the interest of religious groups, therefore no action is taken against religious elements despite having known that they plot religious tension to disrupt the social harmony.”