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REX/Rana Sajid Hussain
World News

Blasphemy laws continuing cause for concern for Christians in Pakistan

The reports come from multiple sources including the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) and Humanists International.

The USCIRF reports there are 80 people in Pakistan imprisoned on blasphemy charges.

The latest Freedom of Thought report from Humanists International says Pakistan remains a "perennial offender" in imprisoning people for blasphemy - long after the country's Supreme Court discredited the high-profile case against Asia Bibi.
 
According to the report: "The authorities prosecuted a total of 1,170 blasphemy cases between 1987 and 2012, with scores of new cases every year. Civil society reports estimate that in 2017 alone at least 50 individuals were imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, with at least 17 facing possible death sentences."

Andrew Boyd from Release International, a charity supporting persecuted Christians told Premier: "Whether you're found guilty or acquitted as Asia Bibi was, it is effectively a death sentence [being accused of blasphemy], there's a number of different forms of it. It could be blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, it could be something that is said against Muhammad, or it could be disrespecting the Quran."

More than 70 people have been murdered following blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to Al Jazeera.
 
In 2018 Amnesty International reported a large increase in blasphemy cases since the 1980s, claiming a total of "633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused under various provisions on offences related to religion since 1987."
 
Release partners believe the number of Christians imprisoned could be far higher.
 
"Given that Christians make up just two per cent of the population, the numbers charged are disproportionately high", said Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International.

"Christians are ten times more likely to be accused of religious offences in Pakistan," Robinson added.

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