Pak Christians say blasphemy cases after review
Last Updated: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 00:46
Lahore: In the face of pressure from Islamic hardliners opposed to changes in the blasphemy law, Pakistan's minority Christian community has asked authorities to ensure that complaints in such cases are registered only after a review by a panel comprising leaders of all religions.

Leaders of the Christian community have asked the Council of Islamic Ideology a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether a law is repugnant to Islam to send a recommendation to parliament regarding the registration of blasphemy cases only after a review by committee of religious leaders.

M M Waqas, Alexander Raja Robert and Akram John of the Pakistan Maseeha Millat Party today said that the Council of Islamic Ideology should recommend that an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police should be empowered to decide about registering blasphemy cases in the light of opinions given by a committee of religious leaders.

Such a step would prevent the misuse of the blasphemy law, the Christian leaders said in a statement.

After Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated on January 4 by a police guard who said he was angered by the politician's opposition to the blasphemy law, civil society groups have called for the repeal or amendment of the statute.

However, religious hardliners and extremist groups have mounted pressure on the government and politicians not to change even a single clause of the blasphemy law, which was introduced by late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

The hardliners have also rallied in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who gunned down Taseer.

The Christian leaders welcomed reports that the Council of Islamic Ideology has recommended stern action against persons who register false and baseless blasphemy cases against innocent people.

"We are, however, surprised by the Council's recommendation regarding the trial of persons accused of blasphemy by Sharia courts. We suggest that such accused should be tried by judges of superior courts," John said.

Minority communities, unlike most segments of the majority Muslim community, have paid rich tributes to Taseer for his brave stance on the blasphemy law and his defence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year for allegedly insulting the Prophet.

The Express Tribune newspaper recently reported that the Council of Islamic Ideology had recommended the death penalty for anybody misusing the blasphemy law.

It also recommended that only the Federal Sharia Court should hear blasphemy cases. The Council proposed the changes to stop the misuse of the law.

"These recommendations have been pending before parliament for the past three years," a senior official in the Council said.

The recommendations remain valid "until and unless they are rejected by parliament", the official said.


First Published: Saturday, January 15, 2011, 00:46

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