Gilani rejects proposal to amend blasphemy law

Pak`s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has approved a recommendation to reject official proposals to pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.

Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 15:53 PM IST

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani has approved a recommendation to reject official
proposals to amend Pakistan`s controversial blasphemy law and
to pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly
insulting Prophet Mohammed.

The Minority Affairs Ministry had proposed the
amendment of the blasphemy law while the Interior Ministry had
launched an initiative to pardon Asia Bibi, who was sentenced
to death under the law last year.

But Law Minister Babar Awan had recommended that both
proposals should be rejected.

The Law Minister`s recommendation was approved by
Gilani yesterday, The News daily reported today.

An order issued by Khushnood Lashari, Principal
Secretary to the Prime Minister, said: "The Prime Minister has
been pleased to approve the proposals contained in the subject
note of Minister for Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs".

"Ministries concerned are being conveyed necessary
directions on actionable proposals, copies of which are being
endorsed to you (ministries) separately," Lashari said.

Awan said his proposals had been endorsed by Gilani,
who agreed to reject the proposal for amending the blasphemy
law and to return the Interior Ministry`s proposal seeking a
pardon for Asia Bibi while her appeal against her death
sentence is pending in the Lahore High Court.

On Monday, Awan sent a note to the Prime Minister,
"strongly advising" the premier against amending the blasphemy
law or pardoning Asia Bibi.

Awan argued that the law with the death penalty for
blasphemers, as interpreted by the Federal Shariah Court, was
in consonance with Islamic injunctions as laid down in the

Regarding the pardon sought for Asia Bibi by the
Interior Ministry, Awan wrote to the premier: "The Ministry of
Interior is advised to follow the legal course of respecting
the principle of re lis-pendens.

"No action is required by executive authorities as
Asia Noreen had already sought herself legal remedy under
section 410 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 by filing an
appeal against her conviction," Awan said.

Referring to the Minority Affairs Ministry`s move to
amend the blasphemy law, Awan wrote: "So far as the request
made to the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the Ministry of
Minorities which is also referred to the Law, Justice &
Parliamentary Affairs Division to look into the reforms of
blasphemy legislation as a matter of urgency is concerned, it
has no substance. Therefore, no action is recommended".

Awan, in his note to the Prime Minister, also called
for the rejection of Pakistan People`s Party lawmaker Sherry
Rehman`s private bill seeking amendment of the blasphemy law.

He recommended: "The present private member`s bill as
reported in the press stands verbally withdrawn by the member
concerned too". The blasphemy law had already been examined by the
Federal Shariah Court, which decided that the legislative
instrument was in "accordance with the injunctions of Islam"
and that any "alternative punishment (is) repugnant to the
injunctions of Islam," Awan wrote.

Awan further concluded that the death penalty for
blasphemy is in accordance with the injunctions of Islam and
"need not to be changed or amended".

The impression created by some people that Pakistan`s
laws do not meet international standards of human rights "is
totally baseless and ill-founded," he said.

The PPP-led government has backed down from a move to
review the blasphemy law due to pressure from religious
hardliners and extremist groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah,
which have organised protests across the country over the past
few weeks.

The hardliners have also praised a police guard who
assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer last month for
opposing the controversial law.