Advocacy statements

Mashal Khan and blasphemy laws in Pakistan

  • Date / 2014
  • Location / Pakistan
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 39th Session (10th – 28th September 2018)

“In Pakistan, it has become very easy to use religion for silencing people, especially human rights defenders. We have seen how, in the past, blasphemy has been used as a political tool.”

These are the words of Gulalai Ismail, board member of the IHEU and co-founder of Aware Girls. She has been accused of blasphemy and threatened due to her work to empower and educate women and girls; and for campaigning for justice for Mashal Khan. Mashal Khan, a humanist, was killed by a group of fellow students after blasphemy accusations in April 2017.

Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are frequently devastating. The accused can become embroiled in years of trials while imprisoned and face a death sentence. There is also a serious risk of extrajudicial killing at the hands of radical Islamists or enraged mobs. Since 1990, vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people associated with blasphemy accusations.

Despite this, the recently elected Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has not only supported blasphemy laws at home – [specifically the law that carries a death sentence for the use of derogatory remarks about Muhammad] – but has voiced his desire to promote a global restriction on criticism of religion.

We remind Pakistan and Prime Minister Khan, that the UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, [the Special Rapporteur on] Cultural Rights, [the Special Rapporteur on] Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide have all called for blasphemy laws to be repealed globally.

Blasphemy laws protect ideas over people; they violate human rights and foster intolerance.

We call on Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws and promote tolerance through positive speech, anti-discrimination laws, and education. 

Suggested academic reference

'Mashal Khan and blasphemy laws in Pakistan', Humanists International

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