Blasphemy Charge Over Facebook Comment – A Dangerous Precedent

KARACHI November 19:  According to media reports a young man has been arrested in Toba Tek Singh for allegedly sharing objectionable content on Facebook.  Reports suggest that a complaint has been registered under the blasphemy law, sections 295-A and 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code. Charges of blasphemy are treated as grave crime and if proven it is punishable by death. Pakistan currently has no law governing the cyberspace, given the nature of social networks, making arrests based on such loose evidence sets a dangerous precedent for justice in Pakistan and leaves the law prone to further abuse.

This follows an incident last year when a young boy was accused of blasphemy for forwarding a text message that he believed had religious significance, his mother was dismissed from her job, their house vandalized and the family was forced into hiding. Over the years, there has been an alarming increase in violence associated with alleged cases of blasphemy. Hooliganism, violent attacks on property and person and the use of blasphemy law to justify all such criminal acts must be stopped immediately.

Given that even an accusation of alleged blasphemy can put a person’s  life under great threat, we at Bolo Bhi and Digital Rights Foundation, demand that the young boy and his family must be protected. This must begin with protecting his identity. The authorities must take every step possible to not allow the justice system to be abused and manipulated to settle personal vendettas as has happened in the past.

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Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, in Urdu. We are a not-for-profit  registered under the Societies Act XXI of 1860. Bolo Bhi is geared towards gender rights, government transparency, internet access, digital security and privacy. We are a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds who are passionate about the same causes and believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates, policy makers, media and citizens. It is by bridging this gap that one can move ahead to chart a way forward and resolve issues through consensus.

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