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Rising blasphemy cases in Pakistan: EU parliament urges review of Pak GSP plus status

April 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The European parliament, in its latest session, adopted a resolution demanding Pakistan to allow space for religious freedom and urged the EU authorities to review GSP plus status for Pakistan amid the increasing number of blasphemy cases.

The EU parliament session, on its last day (April 29), discussed the situation of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, especially the case of the Christian couple under its “human rights and democracy resolutions” manifesto. The couple was awarded death penalty by a local court and waiting for their appeal to be heard by the high court.

Large number of members voted in favour of the resolution. According to the details available with The News, 681 members of the EU parliament voted in favour of the resolution while only three opposed it.

The adopted resolution urged Pakistani authorities to ensure adequate medical care for Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar and give them judicial relief. It expressed concern at long delay in hearing of the appeal of Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel which is being kept postponed.

The resolution expressed concern at the continuous (ab)use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan which exacerbates existing religious divides and believes that this is heightening the climate of religious intolerance, violence and discrimination. It stressed that Pakistan's blasphemy laws were not in line with international human rights laws, and increasingly used to target vulnerable minority groups in Pakistan. It stressed that freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech and expression, and minority rights, are human rights and are guaranteed by Pakistan's constitution. It called on Pakistan to unequivocally condemn incitement to violence and discrimination against religions minorities in the country and urged Pakistan to put in place effective, procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent the abusive use of these laws.

The resolution expressed extreme concern at increasing online and offline attacks on journalists, academies and civil society organisations, in particular against women and minorities and urged Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of journalists, human rights defenders and faith-based organisations, and to undertake prompt and effective investigations in order to uphold the rule of law and bring perpetrators to justice.

The resolution also called on the European Commission and the European External Action Service to immediately review Pakistan's eligibility of the GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament about this matter as soon as possible.

It also urged EU authorities to continue to support the Pakistan Interfaith and Peace Council in organising such regular initiatives with religious leaders including from religious minorities and supported by faith-based organisations, civil society organisations, human rights and legal professionals and academies.

The Christian couple Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel, whose lower body part is paralysed for the past many years, were accused of committing blasphemy by sending a blasphemous SMS to a Muslim person in 2013 in district Toba Tek Singh.

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