01/03/2018, 18.01
PAKISTAN
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Blasphemy charges against acquitted bloggers are a political tool for partisan interests

by Shafique Khokhar

Last year Muslim radicals instigated a trial for blasphemy on social media. For the government, using false cases is a “dangerous game”. Some changes to the Penal Code are proposed.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The case of the five intellectuals and bloggers found not guilty of blasphemy in Pakistan “is proof and confirmation that extensive use of the blasphemy law is actually a misuse for their personal grudges like business conflicts, land grabbing, discrimination in the workplace, family vendettas and other personal issues,” said Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP).

Mr Walter spoke to AsiaNews about the acquittal of five activists who were abducted last year and later released only to face a trial instigated by Muslim radicals for allegedly insulting Islam on social media.

Noting that the Islamabad High Court ruled that bloggers were "innocent", he proposes a series of procedural changes to prevent future abuses of the "black law" on blasphemy, as advocated by the National Commission of Human Rights.

Some of the proposed changes would be: amending section 156-A of the Criminal Procedure Code to include all blasphemy-related offences (295-B, 298-A, 298-B and 298-C of the PPC (Pakistan Penal Code) with a view to reducing prosecution on false accusations; ensuring effective enforcement of Section 156-A of CrPC (the Code of Criminal Procedure) (investigation of a 295-C complaint by an officer not lower in rank than an SP (Superintendent of Police); ensuring that prosecutors/investigators act impartially and pursue only bona fide cases; ensuring that blasphemy cases be tried by sessions courts judges; ensuring that all blasphemy-related cases be bailable.

Noting that "the five bloggers were falsely accused,” Aamir Kakkazai, a Muslim writer, stated that “it is really dangerous for society when the government starts this dangerous game of using false blasphemy case in their own vested interest.”

For him, this case shows the “administration’s desire to control social media.” In view of this, “We should call on the government to develop some sort of tolerance towards those who criticise their policies.”

On another note, Hamza Arshad, a secular Muslim lecturer and writer, pointed out that whilst “The disappearance of bloggers caused an uproar,” it was “not so much for the violation of rights, as for the blasphemy charges.”

“Even some media and civil society groups raised questions their abduction. All the clues showed the involvement of top spies. As soon as the issue became hot, an avalanche of deafening accusations followed.”

In his view, “Blasphemy hovered in the air, awakening bloodthirsty demons. Thank God, there was no serious harm, but the accusers left no stone unturned."

Still, "Now that the authorities have admitted their innocence, will someone rise questions about those who badmouthed them?"

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