11/04/2017, 13.54
PAKISTAN
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Religious Affairs minister defends blasphemy law, says Pakistan will never be secular

Sardar Muhammad Yousaf argues that the "black law" has a noble purpose, namely to protect all religions and religious leaders. Between 1987 and 2015, 663 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus were charged under the law.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has defended his country’s blasphemy law, arguing that there is no real pressure to repeal it.

Speaking to the Pakistan-American Press Association in the US capital of Washington, Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said that the ‘elements’ propagating the case for secularism in Pakistan were not strong enough to put the government under pressure. He clearly stated that ‘Pakistan will never become a secular state’.

The so-called blasphemy law is actually a number of articles in Pakistan’s Penal Code, which punish insults to Islam with life in prison or the death penalty. They were introduced in 1986by then President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Yousaf dismissed allegations that the "black law" on blasphemy is being used for personal vendettas or to discriminate against minorities. On the contrary, he said that the law was had a “great mission”, i.e. to protect not only the holy personalities of Islam but those of all religions.

Yet, activists have long complained that blasphemy, punishable by the death penalty, is something that has divided Pakistani society. Just suspicion can provoke a violent reaction among Qur'an's defenders.

A case in point is the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan, a student at Mardan University, who was punished by fellow students after he allegedly promoted the Ahmadiyah faith on Facebook. Ahmadis are considered heretical by mainstream Muslims.

An investigation ordered by the Supreme Court found that the 23-year-old had never said anything offensive against the prophet.

Before him, at least another 62 people were killed between 1987 and 2015, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was punished for criticising the blasphemy law and for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has been waiting for her appeal trial for the past seven years after she was convicted of offending the Prophet Muhammad.

During this period 1987-2015, 663 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been charged under the blasphemy law.

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