Court Petition Sought Sentence Remission Of Non-Muslim Prisoners

Yesterday, a Christian has filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) for the remission of Non-Muslim prisoners’ jail sentence assuming their educational qualification. Under the existing practice, only Muslim inmates get a reduction in their sentence. The policy does not apply to prisoners belonging to non-Muslim communities, including Christian, Hindu, Sikh and others. After accepting the petition, Justice Rasaal Hasan Syed of LHC ordered Inspector General Prisoner Punjab Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig to reply to the court within two weeks.

The petition only addresses the issue in Punjab province, where about 80 per cent of Christians and only 2 per cent of Hindus live.

Akmal Bhatti advocate, a Catholic lawyer from Faislabad, also the chairman of Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP), said that it was a good petition to get equal treatment for non-Muslim prisoners. “Muslim prisoners are always granted remission on passing some kind of religious exams and learning the Holy Quran. Prisoners belonging to religious minorities were deprived of this concession. It is glaring that government were not dealing equally.”

Petitioner, Kashif Masih, informed the court that under the Jail Rule 2015 of the Prisoners Rule 1978, only Muslim prisoners get remission in their prison sentence after completing formal education. Moreover, after memorising the Holy Quran and completing religious courses, Muslims also get a sentence reduction.

According to the Punjab prisoners’ rules, there are different entitlements of educational remission. The education is divided into three categories: formal education (Matric, F.A., B.A., M.A., etc.), oriental languages (Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, etc.) and religious education, which covers Hafiz-e-Quran, Nazra Quran, Taleem-ulQurancourses, and Tarjama-ul-Quran, etc. Non-Muslim religious education does not come under this provision.

The petition mentioned various articles, which guarantee equal rights and equal treatment to non-Muslims, including prisoners. Article 10-A provides citizens with the right to a fair trial, Article 20 guarantees equal right to profess, propagate and practise their own religion. Although all citizens are equal under Article 25 of the Constitution, the remission rules do not apply the Non-Muslim prisoners. Article 25 says, “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.”

The petition added that according to the relevant rules, non-Muslims could get the same treatment for completing their formal education and religious education, including the study of their holy books; Holy Bible, Geeta, Granth sahib, etc.

Masih prayed to the court for equal treatment to all citizens for preservation of their human dignity, life and honour under the fourth mentioned constitutional provisions, laws and rules. The petition said that the denial of minority prisoners’ rights is a violation of the law.

The petition mentioned that according to the Prisoner’s Department of Punjab, there are 1,188 Christian, Hindu, and Sikh prisoners in Punjab jails. These prisoners would be benefited under the existing rules. ###

  • Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of Minority Concern Pakistan (UK), and a former Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan. In 2013, he won ‘International Award for Women’s Issues’ by ICOM, Geneva.   
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Aftab Alexander Mughal

Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of Minority Concern Pakistan (UK), and a former Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan. In 2013, he won 'International Award for Women's Issues' by ICOM, Geneva.   He can be reached via: