Advocacy statements

Blasphemy laws and proposed amendments to Official Secrets Act in Pakistan

  • Date / 2023
  • Location / Pakistan
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention


Humanists International

54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (11 September to 13 October 2023)

Item 4: General Debate

Speaker: Abid Mehmood

Mr President,

The situation in Pakistan in terms of religious intolerance is alarming, with both government persecution and vigilante attacks against religious minorities and the non-religious on the rise.

The country’s anti-blasphemy law was strengthened earlier this year, and as well as providing grounds for legal convictions, has provided cover for vigilante violence.[1] Those who have been accused of blasphemy have been burned to death,[2] shot dead in courtrooms,[3] and hacked to death on the side of the road,[4] among other forms of extrajudicial killings.[5]

Against this backdrop, the proposed amendments to the Official Secrets Acts would give the country’s intelligence services a wide berth to detain, and raid the home of, any citizen without a warrant.[6] It also brings electronic, unwritten communications under the law’s ambit.[7] While obviously dangerous and unjust in and of itself, this law, when coupled with the anti-blasphemy laws, leaves Pakistan’s religious and belief minorities facing a precarious situation, where government officials can expressly target them without checks and balances.

We call on Pakistan, a member of this Council, to uphold its international human rights obligations and commit to meaningfully ending hate in the country. The instrumentalization of religion by the authorities in Pakistan must end.

Thank you.


[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/18/all-you-need-to-know-about-pakistans-blasphemy-law

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2014/11/5/pakistani-christian-couple-killed-by-mob

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53582578

[4] https://www.dawn.com/news/1614755

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/21/world/asia/pakistan-blasphemy-laws.html; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/18/all-you-need-to-know-about-pakistans-blasphemy-law;  https://theconversation.com/the-politics-of-blasphemy-why-pakistan-and-some-other-muslim-countries-are-passing-new-blasphemy-laws-198647

[6] https://www.dawn.com/news/1768025/bill-to-amend-secrets-act-referred-to-standing-committee-after-opposition-in-senate

[7] https://www.dawn.com/news/1767984

Suggested academic reference

'Blasphemy laws and proposed amendments to Official Secrets Act in Pakistan', Humanists International

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