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Pakistan reports spike in blasphemy cases in 2020

New report says online blasphemy accusations and campaigns are spiraling out of control

Pakistan reports spike in blasphemy cases in 2020

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman accused and later acquitted of blasphemy, was forced out of her country to seek asylum in the West. Here she is seen in Paris, France, in February 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 10, 2021 05:58 AM GMT

Updated: September 10, 2021 06:07 AM GMT

Pakistan reported 200 blasphemy cases in 2020, the highest annual count in the country’s history, with a sharp increase in the number of accused from the Shia Muslim community, claimed a new report.

"Internet Landscape of Pakistan 2020," an annual report released by Bytes for All (B4A) on Sept. 9, said at least 78 persons had been killed extrajudicially following blasphemy and apostasy allegations. 

Out of the 200 blasphemy cases, 75 percent of the accused were Muslims, of whom 70 percent were Shia. The others were Ahmadis (20 percent), Christians (3.5 percent) and Hindus (1 percent). 

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The sharp increase in blasphemy cases registered against Shia Muslims was accompanied by multiple online and offline campaigns against the community.

“The issue of online blasphemy accusations and campaigns continued to spiral out of control, with social media users able to target anyone with near-complete impunity. Most online cases targeted minorities, members of the media, or those teaching/studying in educational institutions,” the report noted.

B4A is a human rights organization and research think tank with a focus on promoting the use of technology for sustainable development, democracy and social justice.

It further revealed that 115 million Pakistani mobile users’ data went on sale on the dark web in 2020

This year’s report presents an in-depth analysis of cybercrime, media censorship and disinformation, child pornography, data protection and privacy, internet access, internet governance, online banking and e-commerce besides online blasphemy

All cybercrime, be it harassment of women, child pornography, hate speech against minorities, financial scams and cyberattacks, data breaches and sale of private information and more, saw a marked increase — a fact recognized by the Federal Investigation Agency's cybercrime wing, which cited reporting trends five times higher than those seen the previous year, the report said.

It further revealed that 115 million Pakistani mobile users’ data went on sale on the dark web in 2020. Clubbed with this was a sharp rise in disinformation on the pandemic and government lockdowns, causing panic and hampering efforts to contain the virus.

The report, looking at the impact of the pandemic and nationwide lockdowns, said it had compelled citizens to turn to new means of communication, doing business, working from home and continuing education remotely.

As many as 94,227 complaints were lodged with the cybercrime wing during 2020. They were mainly related to financial fraud, harassment, stalking and unauthorized access.


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