Last Wednesday, September 25, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted a man accused of blasphemy after he spent 18 years in prison. According to local activists, the acquittal of Wajih-ul-Hassan is the third instance of the higher courts in Pakistan acquitting victims of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws.
Three justices, led by Sajjad Ali Shah, ruled on Wednesday, that the evidence presented against Hassan was not sufficient to support the death sentence. The court then ruled that Hassan must be released from Kot Lakhpath prison.
Speaking to Asia News, Hashir Ibne Irshad, Director of EXIST Communications, said, “After Rimsha Masih and Asia Bibi, Wajih-ul-Hassan is the third case in which a blasphemy victim is acquitted by a higher court. Lower courts never acquit the victims.”
While the news of Hassan’s release is something to be celebrated, serious review must be taken of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the situation that led to Hassan spending 18 years in prison.
“There is a dire need for procedural changes in blasphemy cases,” Irshad explained to Asia News. “The justice system is riddled with loopholes from bottom to top. The courts are not transparent and fair. Blasphemy laws are applied against the victims just to settle personal scores. Sometimes the higher courts free the accused after many years in jail without knowing whether the person has died or not.”
For Pakistan’s religious minorities, especially Christians, abuse of the blasphemy laws continues to be a particular problem. Despite being a tiny minority in Pakistan, Christians are disproportionately accused and punished under the blasphemy laws. Often false accusations are leveled against Christians to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred.
Date published: 04/10/2019
Feature image: Wajih-ul-Hassan, in 2002. (AFP Photo/ALI ARIF)
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