July 18, 2020
The Honorable Imran Khan
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Office of the Prime Minister
Constitution Avenue, G-5/2
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing to express our serious concern for Sajid Soomro, a professor of Sindhi literature at Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur, Sindh province, who was arrested on June 10 and has been charged with blasphemy.
It has also been reported that his arrest and charge may be politically motivated, allegedly as a result of his attendance at the funeral of a Sindhi nationalist. Another professor at the same university, Arfanah Mallah, reportedly received death threats after expressing her support for Professor Soomro.
Blasphemy charges are profoundly unjust and a flagrant violation of basic human rights, including the right to freely express opinions and beliefs. A conviction for blasphemy in Pakistan carries with it the possibility of the death penalty and execution, yet a study conducted in 2015 by the International Court of Justice in the Hague found that most blasphemy cases are eventually found to be based on “personal or political vendettas.”
Used primarily against religious minorities and other vulnerable communities, almost 1,500 people faced blasphemy charges in the 30 years from 1987 to 2016. The detention of Professor Soomro, and the blasphemy laws in general, violate several provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which your government ratified in 2010, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, the right to a fair trial, the requirement that the death penalty be limited to the “most serious crimes”.
We strongly urge your government to repeal this unjust and regularly misused law, and in the meantime to free Professor Soomro and all others charged or convicted solely of this offense; and, further, to ensure that those who support Professor Soomro be protected from those who appear to be threatening their lives.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Sardar Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar
Chief Minister, Punjab
Chief Minister’s Office
7 Club Road, GOR I
Fax: 011 92 42 99204301
Dr. Shireen Mazari
Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
State Life Building, No. 5, Blue Area
Tel: +92 51 9216620
Ali Jehangir Siddiqui
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Contact Form: http://embassyofpakistanusa.org/contact-us/
Paul W. Jones
Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the United States of America
to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
U.S. Embassy Islamabad
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5
Phone: (+92) 051-201-4000
Fax: (+92) 51-2338071
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520