The BPCA have been made aware of a meeting the past few days in Geneva of Christian groups about Pakistan's blasphemy laws, organized by the group 'World Council of Churches'.
We were approached by a Christian newspaper to comment, but at such short notice that we didn't manage to respond for their deadline. Here is what we would have said :
BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry said :
The problem with the blasphemy laws in Pakistan is both the laws themselves and with their interpretation and implementation. The laws themselves were brought in by a military dictator to curry favour with Islamic extremists. They single out some groups like the Ahmadi's, and in general they disproportionately affect minority communities. In a society increasingly dominated by the Taliban and similar extremist groups, this is a recipe for disaster, injustice, corruption, abuse and repression, as we are now seeing. Even just the threat of a blasphemy accusation is a potent weapon. We would support a return of the original laws enacted by the British in 1860, under which it was a civil order offence and applied equally across all religions. For nearly the first seven decades there was not a single case presented. From 1927, when the first case was registered to 1984 there were only 9 or 10 cases, about one every 4 or 5 years, but over the 30 years since 1984 when the new laws were brought in there have been around 5000 (and counting - this was the figure by 2004), including around a 1000 cases where people were charged. Over 30 of those charged were extra-judicially killed. Returning to the old style laws would be a huge improvement, and less open to abuse. In the current Islamicist dominated Pakistan, such a return to the original laws may not bring back the situation back to what it was, but it would still have a profound impact.
BPCA researcher Nasarani ki Himmet made some further points
These laws protect only one religion and nearly every case turns out to be at root a matter of a personal dispute or vendetta, or else a plot to seize land or property, whether that of an individual, or of a whole community, as in the recent Rimsha case. And all this malice and avarice can be cloaked in a mask of supposedly pious motivation - defending a religion.
And it also begs a question. Is God so powerless that He seems to universally require violent mobs or individuals with grudges, disputes or motivated by greed to defend Himself against the words of mere mortals? The blasphemy laws provide a fig leaf of justification for incidents like the recent thousands strong mob that stormed a police station to drag out a homeless and mentally ill Muslim man accused of blasphemy and burn him alive in the street. Those who know their bible have to ask 'How is this any different to the pagan religions in the time of the prophets who burned children alive as a sacrifice to their idols?'