CSI’s International President Dr. John Eibner urges Justice Minister Tarar to drop blasphemy charges against cousins Noman Masih and Sunny Waqas.
The parents of Noman Masih hold up his picture. csi
Christian Solidarity International (CSI) has written to Pakistan’s justice minister, Azam Nazeer Tarar, urging him to lift charges of blasphemy against Christian cousins Noman Masih and Sunny Waqas.
Blasphemy is a capital offense under Article 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On May 30, 2023 a court in Bahawalpur found Noman guilty of blasphemy against Islam under Article 295-C and passed a sentence of death. His legal team has lodged an appeal with the Lahore High Court.
In his letter dated June 8, Eibner recalls that Noman has been languishing on death row in Bahawalpur jail for close to four years. His cousin Sunny was released on bail in February 2023.
The two cousins were arrested separately days apart in 2019. The police report claimed that Sunny had printed blasphemous sketches of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam’s prophet, and was showing them to other people. Sunny allegedly told police that his cousin Noman had shared the images with him. Both were then taken into custody.
Eibner quotes a General Comment by the UN Human Rights Committee from July 28, 2011, according to which, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the covenant [i.e. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].”
Pakistan has ratified this legally binding international covenant.
The former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, called for the repeal of blasphemy laws, noting that they often serve to further religious intolerance against vulnerable religious minorities.
Eibner also notes that Minister Tarar is himself a board member of Justice Project Pakistan, which issued a report in 2015 that strongly condemned Pakistan’s use of the death penalty in blasphemy cases.
The letter concludes with a request to “provide guarantees for the safety of Noman Masih and Sunny Waqas upon their release from prison, given the strong possibility of religious extremists committing acts of violence against them because of the allegation of blasphemy.”
Since 1987, 78 people accused of blasphemy have been extrajudicially murdered in Pakistan.
CSI is providing support to the families of Noman Masih and Sunny Waqas as well as to their legal teams.