Pakistan Expands Criminalisation of Freedom of Conscience and Belief

WASHINGTON, D.C., Wednesday 18 January 2023 Pakistan’s National Assembly approved legislation on Tuesday, in violation of its human rights commitments, to extend the penalty of life imprisonment to additional blasphemy accusations. 

The new legislation increases the punishment for those accused of defaming wives, members and friends of Islam’s prophet Muhammed, with up to “life imprisonment” and not less than “ten years’ rigorous imprisonment.”

Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, decries the new language, “This is terrible and goes against Pakistan’s human rights law commitments. The addition of this law will only further the persecution of minorities under the anti-blasphemy laws.” 

During the UN General Assembly last year Pakistan was allowed to keep its position on the Human Rights Council, despite maintaining the death penalty for apostasy and making voluntary pledgesspecific to freedom of religion and belief. 

Pakistan is infamous as one of the four countries where mob violence and  blasphemy accusations are the highest, and is among the 10 countries where blasphemy penalties are applied. There are at least 40 people currently languishing in prison. The government of Pakistan uses anti-blasphemy laws to target individuals for expressions of belief and conscience.