Blasphemy laws: UN special envoy decries Pakistan’s justice system

Express Tribune: The UN special rapporteur  on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, expressed serious reservations on Tuesday about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, weak prosecution, procedures of such sensitive cases in the courts and a parallel justice system including the Federal Shariat Court (FST).


Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, Knaul said it was a matter of concern how the blasphemy law was being misused to target women and deprive them of their fundamental rights.  “… Judges have been coerced to pass verdicts against the accused without supporting evidence even. As for the lawyers, in addition to their reluctance to take up such cases, they are targeted and forced not to represent their clients properly,” maintained the UN rapporteur, who is currently on a 10-day official visit to Pakistan (May 19 to May 29).

Showing her concern over the FST, Knaul said, “I believe that the existence of two superior courts in the Constitution is problematic and leaves space for interpretations.” While urging the government to provide high-level security for judges and lawyers, she also pointed out that judges, prosecutors and lawyers working on cases related to terrorist acts and organised crime are also often the target of serious threats and attacks.


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