Pakistan’s blasphemy law targets youth engaging on social media

In Pakistan, the mere act of sharing a WhatsApp message, whether authentic or alleged, can have dire consequences

In Pakistan, the mere act of sharing a WhatsApp message, whether authentic or alleged, can have dire consequences

In Pakistan, the mere act of sharing a WhatsApp message, whether authentic or alleged, can have dire consequences, often leading to severe legal repercussions, including death sentences. Recent cases have shed light on the alarming escalation of blasphemy accusations and convictions, particularly concerning social media usage

The Blasphemy Law

Pakistan’s blasphemy law, carrying the penalty of death, has long been criticized for its oppressive nature and abuse in targeting religious minorities. However, recent cases illustrate a disturbing trend of extending its reach to prosecute individuals for online speech. The sentencing of a 22-year-old student to death and a 17-year-old to life imprisonment in Gujrat district exemplify the law’s sweeping impact, even on young offenders. This reflects a broader pattern of using blasphemy accusations as a means of suppressing dissent and controlling expression in the country.

Social Media as a New Battleground

The advent of social media has transformed the landscape of free expression in Pakistan, introducing new avenues for communication and interaction. However, it has also become a battleground for blasphemy accusations, with individuals like Aneeqa Atiq and university professor Junaid Hafeez facing severe penalties for allegedly sharing blasphemous material online. Such cases highlight the perilous intersection of digital communication and religious sensitivities, where a mere post or message can lead to life-altering consequences.

Violent Consequences of Accusations

Accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan often result in violence, endangering the lives of those targeted and their communities. Since 1990, over 65 people have reportedly been killed over blasphemy claims, underscoring the volatile nature of these allegations. The attack on a Christian settlement in Faisalabad district in August 2023 following blasphemy accusations further exemplifies the dangerous consequences of such charges. In this climate of fear and intolerance, individuals live in constant peril, susceptible to vigilantism and mob violence fueled by religious fervor.

Urgent Need for Reforms

The escalating use of blasphemy laws to target social media speech represents a grave threat to freedom of expression and the rule of law in Pakistan. Instead of expanding the scope of these laws, there is an urgent need for legal reforms to safeguard individuals’ rights and prevent further abuse of the legal system. The Pakistani government must prioritize amending and ultimately repealing blasphemy laws to uphold principles of justice, tolerance, and human rights, ensuring a more equitable and democratic society for all its citizens.

About Freelance writer

As a passionate freelance writer, I delve into the intricacies of human rights, work-life balance, and labour rights to illuminate the often overlooked aspects of our societal fabric. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to social justice, I navigate the complexities of these crucial topics, aiming to foster awareness and inspire change.

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