Congressional resolution seeks repeal of blasphemy law in Pak

The resolution expressed condolences for the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

Washington: A resolution introduced in the US House of Representatives has urged the UN and the Obama administration to impress the Pakistani Government to repeal the blasphemy law.

The resolution introduced by Congressman Trent Franks and co-sponsored by eight others expressed condolences for the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Pakistan Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.

Sent to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for necessary action, the resolution calls for a Taseer-Bhatti Resolution in the UN Human Rights Council honouring their courage in defence of core principles of Pakistan`s democracy, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly the freedom of religion.

Noting that both Taseer and Bhatti were actively opposed to the death sentence handed down to Asia Bibi in November 2010 for insulting Islam, the resolution called for amendments to the blasphemy laws, recollecting the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the Republic.

In his speech before the Constituent Assembly in 1947, Jinnah had urged citizens to worship as they choose and stated, "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State".

Pakistan, the resolution says, has been the main sponsor of resolutions through the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the UN since 1999 which attempt to provide an internationally recognised legal justification for their existing blasphemy laws.

As such the resolution calls on the Secretary of State and the US Permanent Representative to the UN to introduce a `Taseer-Bhatti Resolution` in the UN Human Rights Council advocating the repeal of blasphemy laws and condemning their adverse effects on freedom of religion and thought and to continue to work to defeat passage of the annual `defamation` resolutions introduced by the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

It calls on the US President to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan to address the blasphemy laws, including engaging in a bilateral review of the compatibility of all blasphemy legislation with the universally recognised freedom of religion with the intent to repeal or amend such incompatible legislation; and the actions against those who make claims of blasphemy that have incited violence.