UPR Recommends Pakistan Repeal Blasphemy Law
During last week’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), numerous countries called for Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy law.
The UPR, held in Geneva, Switzerland, was established by the United Nations’ general assembly in 2006 and is a committee that periodically reviews human rights records in all 193 countries in the UN.
“This week, Pakistan was being reviewed,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “The members of the committee were…talking about rights of minorities, such as Christians, issues about human trafficking…When it came the US’s turn to speak, Jesse Bernstein, who is the US’s representative on the committee also said we would like to see Pakistan repeal the blasphemy law.”
In the past, Pakistan has been asked to reform its blasphemy law, which is often used to target minorities. However, it hasn’t been asked to entirely repeal it until now. The United Kingdom representative also called for an establishment of an independent national commission for minorities from all the faith communities in Pakistan with their own representatives.
However, these recommendations and calls for repeal are not binding, Pakistan does not have to follow them. Last Thursday, Pakistan announced that it will not be accepting the recommendations to repeal or change its blasphemy law.
“Even if they don’t immediately repeal the blasphemy law, it is starting a large discussion within Pakistan about how they’re perceived by the rest of the world,” Allen explains. “There is a surging momentum of people in society saying, ‘you need to take a second look at this,’ and the Lord can still work through that sort of movement as well.”
Pakistani newspapers have begun questioning how the blasphemy law came to be where it is today. They’ve examined blasphemy cases where evidence wasn’t required to convict individuals and sentence them to a mandatory death sentence. Allen says one Pakistani journalist analyzing the situation included facts about the blasphemy law in relation to Islam.
“In the past historically, non-Muslims were not held to the same standards as Muslims,” Allen shares. “So if there was a case of blasphemy and someone was being tried for it, the people in charge of that trial [used to take] into consideration [if] the offender was a Muslim or not.”