Advocacy statements

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan

  • Date / 2018
  • Location / Pakistan
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 6: Universal Periodic Review


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 37th Session (27th February – 23rd March 2018)

General Debate Item 6

The rights to freedom of religion, belief and expression in Pakistan are severely curtailed in a range of ways, including: a constitutional requirement that the president and prime minister are Muslim; the coercive fundamentalist nature of religious instruction in a significant number of schools; impunity for vigilante violence against non-religious and religious minorities; forced conversions, where girls and women from minority belief groups are forced to marry into Muslim families; Ahmadis being prohibited from self-identifying as Muslim and participating in Islamic culture and worship.

However, perhaps the most egregious form of curtailment – in terms of their impact on all religious and non-religious minorities – are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

During its UPR, Pakistan rejected the need to repeal its blasphemy laws, arguing that they are “non-discriminatory,” and apply “to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”[1] However, in reality,  between 1986 and 2007, the authorities charged 647 people with blasphemy offences – 50% of these were non-Muslims who in total constitute only around 3% of the population.[2]

Besides the strongly disproportionate prosecution of non-Muslims, there are a range of additional reasons why blasphemy laws run diametrically counter to human rights:

Currently in Pakistan, nearly 40 individuals are currently sentenced either to death or to life imprisonment for blasphemy in Pakistan.[3] These include Christians Asia Bibi and Taimoor Raza.[4]

We again urge Pakistan to abolish its blasphemy laws and ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all citizens that are imprisoned for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression or belief.


[1] A/HRC/37/13, para 124

[2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom F, Pakistan 2015-2016, 3, https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF_AR_2016_Tier1_2_Pakistan.pdf.

[3] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom F, Pakistan 2015-2016, 3, https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF_AR_2016_Tier1_2_Pakistan.pdf

[4] http://iheu.org/anti-terrorism-court-hands-death-sentence-blasphemous-facebook-post/

Suggested academic reference

'Blasphemy laws in Pakistan', Humanists International

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