Pakistan: Sindh Assembly orders mandatory mental assessment of blasphemy suspects

Nasir Saeed
The Sindh Assembly in Pakistan has made is mandatory that anyone who is accused of blasphemy or attempts suicide is examined by a psychiatrist.
It also said that if they are found to be suffering from a mental disorder they should be given treatment.

The move was abounded on April 10 as part of five of six government bills passed on the day.

It will be up to a court to provide relief to those found to be unwell, but the bill means that an assessment must be carried out, and allows the courts to consider reducing the sentences of those found to be suffering.

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK, welcomed the amendment and said although no direct change has been made to the blasphemy laws, which are considered a root cause of persecution by Christians and other religious minorities and there is increasing demand to bring amendments to these laws, it is still a significant step by the Sindh government and it will help to save many innocent victims’ lives.

In the past several people like British Mohammad Asghar who were mentally unwell, were not just unfairly charged under the blasphemy law, but even people like Shahbaz was burnt alive by an extremist mob, who were instead supposed to be given treatment.

Mr Saeed said: “I wish the Sindh government also makes some laws against false blasphemy accusations and to stop widespread misuse of the blasphemy law, which is being used to settle personal vendettas. I hope that one day it realises and discusses the ongoing misuse of the law.”

Blasphemy cases are rarely registered, but the majority of them are registered in Punjab and Christians are the main target. They feel very insecure under the blasphemy, and it is time for the Punjab government to take some steps towards making them feel safer in a country which they had such a large hand in creating.

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