Pakistan lawyer group behind rise in blasphemy cases

Days after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri for gunning down a judge who criticised the blasphemy law, reports have emerged of a lawyers group in Pakistan is behind the rise in prosecutions for blasphemy
Pakistan lawyer group behind rise in blasphemy cases
Ghulam Mustafa, of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum

Islamabad

The stated mission of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum and its leader Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry is to use its expertise and influence to ensure that anyone insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad is charged, tried and executed. 
The group offers free legal advice to complainants and packs courtrooms with representatives, a tactic critics say is designed to help it gain convictions. Blasphemy is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan that goes to the heart of an ideological clash between reformers and religious conservatives. 
Since Khatm-e-Nubuwwat was founded 15 years ago, the number of criminal blasphemy cases filed in Punjab, the group’s home base had tripled to 336 by 2014, according to police figures.
Rigid to the end: 
“Whoever does this (blasphemy), the punishment is only death. There is no alternative,” Chaudhry told supporters. The campaign could complicate the government’s tentative efforts to reform blasphemy legislation, a tough task in a country where support for the law is widespread. Chaudhry was the defence lawyer for Mumtaz Qadri.
There are allegations that Chaudhry and his colleagues arrive in court as a group, seen as intimidating by others. Chaudhry denied the accusations, saying that he was the victim of intimidation by human rights groups. 
Even discussing blasphemy is a challenge in Pakistan. At the same time, authorities are insisting senior police officers are involved in case redressal. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that criticism of the law did not constitute blasphemy.

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