Pakistan: Blasphemy laws threatening EU relationship


Pakistani government’s approach to religious discrimination is incompatible with human rights commitments, writes Barbara Matera.

Barbara Matera, vice-chair of parliament's women's rights and gender equality committee

Barbara Matera, vice-chair of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee

For years now, the international community and human rights activists within Pakistan have been trying to draw the attention to minorities’ rights in the country and the use of the blasphemy laws by hardline groups as a tool to oppress and prosecute minorities.

In the most recent incident, a 70 year old British citizen of Pakistani descent who had been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges was shot by his guard in a high security prison.

Earlier, in late July violence erupted in the town of Gujranwala, 140 miles south-east of Islamabad, after a rumor spread that a young man of the Ahmadi community had posted ‘objectionable material’ on Facebook.

According to reports from the incident, a crowd of 150 people went to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused, and as police were negotiating with the crowd another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis. Homes were looted, their belongings were dragged to the street and lit on fire, and gunshots were also reported.

“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have… fostered a climate of religiously motivated violence, and are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims”

The most tragic consequence of the religious violence though was the loss of human life. The mob killed an Ahmadi woman and two of her granddaughters, a seven-year-old girl and her baby sister. None of the three were in any way related to the blasphemy accusation. According to witnesses, the police stood by without interfering in the incident.

Ahmadis have faced prosecution under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as well, which carry the death penalty for …read more at

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