The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights was informed on Friday that 179 people were under detention and facing trials across the country on charges of blasphemy, while 17 had been sentenced.

The findings were submitted to the Senate panel by the National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (NHRC).

Last month, Senator Walid Iqbal, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, had sought details of blasphemy cases from the NCHR during a meeting that was called days after the Jaranwala incident, when a violent mob destroyed dozens of houses and churches over allegations of blasphemy.

“If the law was used against Muslims, then details on this should also be provided,” he had told Dawn.

The committee had also adopted a recommendation to constitute a national coordination committee within the Ministry of Human Rights to draft standard operating procedures for “effective control on issues that cause suffering to minorities”.

In a report submitted to the committee today, a copy of which has been seen by Dawn.com, the NHRC said a total of 179 people in the country were under arrest on blasphemy charges.

Breaking down the figures by provinces, the report indicated that 17 people were detained in Islamabad, 18 in Punjab, 78 in Sindh, 55 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and one in Balochistan.

The report also mentioned that 17 persons had been convicted so far of which 11 were from Islamabad, four from Sindh and 2 from Balochistan. No conviction was made from Punjab and KP, according to the report.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Senator Iqbal said the committee had initially sought comprehensive information from the NCHR, but the commission only managed to provide a one-page report.

“In our next meeting, we will seek more extensive details from the commission, including a more thorough overview of the total number of cases mentioned,” he said.

Senator Iqbal voiced concerns about the exploitation of blasphemy laws for “settling personal scores”.

He stated that the committee would also investigate ways to prevent the misuse of laws, adding that Senator Sherry Rehman would be invited to discuss ways to prevent the misuse of laws. He noted that a bill previously introduced by the PPP senator on blasphemy laws would also be examined.

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