Document - UA 285/91 - Pakistan: death penalty: The death penalty made mandatory for defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad
This is the last UA for the day
EXTERNAL (for general distribution)AI Index: ASA 33/08/91
UA 285/91 Death Penalty 20 August 1991
PAKISTAN: The Death Penalty Made Mandatory for Defiling the Name of the Prophet Mohammad
On 29 July 1991 the Pakistan federal cabinet decided to amend Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code which read:
"Whoever ... defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammad ... shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life..."
The amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code removes the alternative punishment of imprisonment for life. It makes the death penalty mandatory for the offence of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad.
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Chaudhary Amir Hussain, stated to the press that this decision had been taken by the federal government in accordance with the verdict of the Federal Shariat Court. The Enforcement of Shariat Act 1991 of May 1991 requires the government to bring all laws into conformity with Islam. In order to become law the amendment of Section 295C will need to be approved by parliament. Its passage is highly likely as the government enjoys a large majority in both houses of parliament. It is not known to Amnesty International when the amendment will be placed before parliament.
Though Section 295C is applicable to anyone showing disrespect to the Prophet Mohammad, Amnesty International is concerned that members of the minority Ahmadiyya community may face the death penalty as a mandatory punishment for the exercise of their religious beliefs. The Ahmadis consider themselves as Muslims but an Ordinance of 1984 prohibits their calling themselves Muslim and using Muslim practices in worship. Their reference to the Prophet Mohammad is considered by orthodox Muslims as defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad. Some Ahmadis are reported to have been charged under Section 295C in the past but Amnesty International is not aware of anyone having been sentenced under it.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please write courteously worded express letters and airmail letters (in which you do not refer to the question whether Ahmadis should be regarded as Muslims or not):
- expressing concern that under the amended form of Section 295C Pakistan Penal Code members of the minority Ahmadiyya community may face the death penalty as a mandatory punishment for the exercise of their religious beliefs;
- urging the government to reconsider its decision to amend Section 295C and urging parliament (in the letters to chairpersons of parties) not to approve the amendment;
- urging the government to consider the abolition of the death penalty which Amnesty International considers the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment;
- stressing that as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed should be progressively restricted to the most serious crimes involving the loss of
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan Dear President
Murree Brewery Road
Mian Nawaz Sharif Dear Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Mr Shujaat Hussain Dear Minister
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
Pak Secretariat, Block R
Chaudhary Amir Hussain Dear Minister
Minister for Law, Justice and
Ministry of Law and Justice
Pak Secretariat, Block R & S
Aziz A. Munshi Dear Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Wasim Sajjad Jan Dear Sir
Chairman of the Senate
Ghaur Ayub Dear Sir
Speaker of the National Assembly
Wali Khan Dear Sir
Awami National Party
16/II Khayaabane Shujat
Karachi 755 00, Pakistan
Muhammad Khan Junejo Dear Sir
Pakistan Muslim League
Muslim League House
Altaf Hussain Dear Sir
Muhajir Qaumi Movement
Begum Benazir Bhutto Dear Madam
Pakistan People's Party
Karachi 75600, Pakistan
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Pakistan in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 5 October 1991.