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.

PTI



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

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