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EU urges Pakistan to overhaul blasphemy laws

November 27, 2014

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File photo shows Pakistani Christians during a demonstration in Lahore chanting slogans to condemn the killing of a Christian couple.—AP/File
File photo shows Pakistani Christians during a demonstration in Lahore chanting slogans to condemn the killing of a Christian couple.—AP/File
Members of Christian community stage a protest in Peshawar on Sunday, Nov 9, 2014 against killing of a couple in Kasur.—White Star
Members of Christian community stage a protest in Peshawar on Sunday, Nov 9, 2014 against killing of a couple in Kasur.—White Star

STRASBOURG: The European parliament on Thursday called on Pakistan to overhaul its blasphemy laws with a view to repealing them, saying they were “increasingly used to target” Christians and other minorities.

The European parliament expressed particular concern about the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death four years ago for making blasphemous statements during an argument with a woman over a bowl of water.

Her sentence was upheld last month by a high court in the eastern city of Lahore, dashing hopes the conviction might be overturned or commuted to a jail term.

Related: Promoting tolerance

In a non-binding resolution, members of the European parliament in Strasbourg, France expressed their concern that blasphemy laws “are increasingly used to target vulnerable minority groups, including Ahmadis and Christians, in Pakistan.”

The resolution “calls on the government of Pakistan to carry out a thorough review of the blasphemy laws and their current application ... with a review to repealing the laws.”

It also “calls on the government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, including for blasphemy or apostasy.”

Around 50 MEP's meanwhile wrote to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urging her to ask Pakistan to show clemency toward Asia Bibi.

In a final recourse in her case, Asia Bibi filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on Monday.

Also read: On death row for blasphemy, Asia Bibi makes final appeal to SC

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence.

Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy and has had a de-facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008. But anyone convicted, or even just accused, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.