Pakistan claims 400,000 social media accounts spread blasphemy – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan punishes blasphemy with the death penalty. According to a report by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, 400,000 social media accounts spread blasphemous material against Islam, Bitter Winter reported.
Even considering that an individual may have multiple accounts, the number of those risking the death penalty is enormous. Through this method, the Ministry arrived at the figure of 400,000 and the claim that an “epidemic” of blasphemy is hitting Pakistan is not explained.
However, doubts arise as the report says that among the owners of these 400,000 accounts spreading blasphemy, “the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] Cyber Crime Wing has already apprehended 140 individuals involved in these crimes, with 11 of them having received the death penalty from trial courts and two having their death sentences confirmed by the High Court.”
Death penalties imposed against those accused of blasphemy remain a tragic violation of human rights. Still, the contrast between the alleged 400,000 accounts “dragging the new generation into the quagmire of blasphemy” and the 140 arrests is interesting. The report assures that this is not caused by the ineffectiveness of the FIA, Bitter Winter reported.
Bitter Winter was launched in May 2018 as an online magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China published by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, headquartered in Torino, Italy. Bitter Winter has a network of correspondents in all Chinese provinces.
On the contrary, the report said, “There are 15 Cyber Crime units throughout the country under the jurisdiction of the FIA. These units have already established Anti-Blasphemy Cells, and immediate action is taken upon receiving reports in response to requests made to these cells.”
“Cyber Crime technology traces criminals who engage in offensive activities on any social media application, share derogatory material on any website, or use VPNs. Once apprehended, these individuals are arrested and face legal action in accordance with the law,” it said further.
One can thus suspect that the number of 400,000 is just a figment of some anti-blasphemy bureaucrat’s imagination, publicized to justify the harsher measures against blasphemy introduced to appease Muslim extremists and the increasing number of false cases where devotees of minority religions are prosecuted for social media remarks that either were not blasphemous or they never made, Bitter Winter reported.
This news article was written by Massimo Introvigne, who is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements.

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