Islamabad: Apparently in a desperate bid to appease Pakistan’s conservative religious groups, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been making widely contradictory statements regarding the country’s controversial blasphemy law.
After a number of religious groups rallied across Lahore the other day against proposed amendments in the blasphemy law, Gilani assured the National Assembly on Wednesday that the government never intended to make any changes in the law, maintaining that neither he nor the NA Speaker had constituted any committee to consider any amendment in the law.
In stark contrast to his remarks, Pakistan People’s Party MNA Sherry Rehman was quoted as saying that Gilani had disbanded the committee announced by the party to amend the law.
In response to a query raised by the leader of opposition in the National Assembly, he said the government could never even think of taking such an action that contradicted national interests.
However, during the same session, Gilani called for Ulema’s support to the federal government in its efforts to prevent the misuse of the country’s blasphemy law, saying: “If the minorities have any reservations, the law can be made more effective in its functioning”.
But this is exactly what Rehman had proposed in a private bill submitted by her in the National Assembly Secretariat, which had caused a furore among the conservative lot in the country.
Gilani told the House that Rehman had submitted the bill proposing amendments in the blasphemy law in her personal capacity on the assembly’s private member’s day, and clarified that it was not a party policy line. He added that the MNA had decided to withdraw the bill.
However, Rehman clearly stated that she was not even consulted on the withdrawal of the blasphemy bill, but since the Prime Minister had disbanded the committee announced by the party to amend the law, so as a PPP MNA, she had to abide by the party’s decision.
“There was never any question of withdrawing the bill as the speaker had never admitted it on the agenda. Had it appeared on the agenda, perhaps some of our colleagues would have understood that it was not demanding repeal of the law, but protecting our great Prophet’s (PBUH) name against injustices done via procedures introduced by Ziaul Haq,” she maintained.
Clarifying her point of view, Rehman said she had submitted that “innocent people be given a chance to prove their innocence like in all laws, and that cases be tried at the higher courts, that penalties be given according to the Quran, and that no one who makes false charges in the name of a Prophet (PBUH), who swore always to defend the innocent and the vulnerable, go unpunished.”