Brussels conference condemns Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, equates to ethnic cleansing

Brussels [Belgium], July 30 (ANI): A Brussels press club conference on Thursday condemned Pakistan’s highly controversial blasphemy laws and equated the legislation to ethnic cleansing.

Under the auspices of the Alliance, internationale pour la defense des droits et des libertes, Pakistan’s blasphemy law which purportedly protects Islam and the religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority of Pakistan was widely condemned, reported eureporter.

They said that it was “vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and the judiciary”. As such they permit, even invite, abuse and the harassment and persecution of minorities in Pakistan.

Despite such concerns, the European Union is “failing to help” victims and pressure must be put on Pakistan to repeal its laws, said the Alliance.

The legal basis of the blasphemy law, the use of the laws to justify ethnic cleansing and the particular effects on females were all discussed.

Opening the debate, Paulo Casada, a former Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Founder and Executive Director of the South Asia Democratic Forum, said: “This is a very important topic and one we have been dealing with for a long time. People are being accused of blasphemy without any foundation at all. This results from attacks on lawyers and the quite fanatical and absurd atmosphere in the country.

Jurgen Klute, former MEP and a Christian theologian, said: “I think Christianity and Islam have a lot in common: the belief that you have to appear in front of divine judgement at the end of your time so we must strongly argue against these blasphemy laws. How can a human being decide or estimate what blasphemy is? You have to leave such decisions to your God. We can argue against these laws on human rights grounds and also religious grounds.”

Another keynote speaker, Willy Fautre, Director, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), thanked the organisers for highlighting the issue.

He focused to be on the case of a Christian couple imprisoned since 2013 on blasphemy charges before being declared innocent by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and released a few months ago. Despite a resolution of the European Parliament in April focusing on their case, no EU country is ready to grant them political asylum.

He said that in the HRWF database of FORB prisoners, “we have documented 47 cases of believers of all faiths in Pakistan who are in jail on the basis of the blasphemy laws.” These include 26 Christians, 15 Sunni Muslims, five Ahmadis and one Shia Muslim. Fautre added: “There are certainly more.”

Some 16 have been sentenced to death, 16 have been sentenced to life imprisonment, 10 have been in prison for years and are still waiting for trial and in four cases the status of the prisoner is unknown, reported eureporter.

The case of Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 and was finally acquitted for lack of evidence by the Supreme Court of Pakistan after spending many years on death row is well known.

When she was released, she went into hiding to avoid being killed by terrorist groups.

Some 681 MEPs voted in favour of the resolution and only three MEPs opposed it. Fautre added: “The Christian couple was finally released after spending eight years in prison. They live in hiding for their security. They would now like to find a safe haven in an EU member state but they have not received any proposal from them and their applications for a visa through various European embassies have mostly remained unanswered or have been turned down because they are in hiding for their safety, they have no job and no proof of income. The diplomatic missions have not proposed them an alternative process to get asylum.” (ANI)