Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 8 (ANI): Despite international condemnation over Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty, observers note that Christians continue to become common targets of discrimination of the laws, note observers.

According to Pakistan Today, activists say that a persistent, apparently without reason, discrimination has turned into persecution against Christians, which is seen in cases where allegations are mostly baseless.

"More than 90 per cent of the country's Christians reside in Punjab. And 60 per cent live in villages, and in most cases are more indigenous to their areas than Muslims. Blasphemy and desecration of the Quran are used against them, but the latter is used against them collectively, followed by organised destruction of property," said analyst Khaled Ahmed.

One of the prime examples of the brutality of the blasphemy laws is the case against Asia Bibi, which then led to the deaths of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 and former minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti for defending Bibi.

Earlier this year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" due to its worsening religious freedom conditions for Christians and other religious minorities.

The report has cited a "sharp rise in targeted killings, blasphemy cases, forced conversions, and hate speech targeting religious minorities".

In its report, the body further said that the first three months of 2021 have proved to be challenging for Christians in Pakistan, despite the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government's claim.

The International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that at least 25 incidents of persecution against Pakistan's Christian population between January 1 and March 31, 2021, reported Pakistan Today.

Along with criticising Prime Minister Imran Khan's wish for the blasphemy laws to be passed globally, the ICC pointed out that the far-right ideology can ultimately target Christians in the country.

"The plight of Christians in Pakistan illustrates some of the reasons why the West should care about Christian persecution. Firstly, Christians in Pakistan are an impoverished minority, part of the Dalit or untouchable caste. If we claim to care about minorities, especially poor minorities, we cannot justify ignoring the plight of the 245 million Christians who face extreme persecution for their faith," notes commentator Breda O'Brien.

At least 199 individuals were accused of blasphemy offenses, a significant increase over 2019 and the highest number of blasphemy cases in a single year in the country's history. The accused were mostly Shia (70 per cent of cases) and Ahmadi Muslims (20 per cent of cases).

At least 199 individuals were accused of blasphemy offenses, a significant increase over 2019 and the highest number of blasphemy cases in a single year in the country's history. The accused were mostly Shia (70 per cent of cases) and Ahmadi Muslims (20 per cent of cases), according to the 2020 report International Religious Freedom report. (ANI)

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