Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Pakistan: The blasphemy law and misuse of religion

Mianwali again saw a manifestation of one of the worst forms of religious extremism and fundamentalism in Pakistan, when Rukhsana Bunyad, a local social activist and district councilor was charged having allegedly made remarks against the Holy Qur'an.
At the behest of local politicians settling old scores and the religious lobby in Mianwali with a case was registered against her under section 295-A in the process fanning religious sentiments against her. Asma Jehangir, lawyer, human rights advocate and activist in the women's movement in Pakistan, has taken up the case and local groups are monitoring the situation.

Speaking at a seminar on the proposed constitutional amendments, Ms.Bunyad's remarks were misunderstood by a number of journalists who started to protest. Clarifications were offered by participants including ex-minister Sher Afghan, as well as an apology by the speaker for having inadvertently hurt anyone's feelings. This is not the first time that an innocent citizen has fallen foul of this law by those who use it to settle personal scores through the blatant misuse of the religion they profess to uphold.

Rukhsana Bunyad was granted bail on 8th August but despite the fact that 35 participants of the seminar and four local religious scholars recorded their statements in her favour, bail was not confirmed on the next hearing, which took place on 15th August. The next date of hearing for her bail is set for 22nd August.

Considering these facts, Women's Action Forum, Lahore demands of the government to repeal the Blasphemy Law, which has been repeatedly misused. We also strongly urge that the case against Rukhsana Bunyad be dropped and effective measures be taken to ensure the safety of her life, as there are reports that a death squad has been formed to murder her.

Women's Action Forum Working Committee