Lahore: A Pakistani court Monday restrained
the government from amending the blasphemy law, which has been at the centre of a heated debate after a Christian woman was convicted under it and sentenced to death last month.
Chief Justice Justice Khwaja Sharif of the Lahore High
Court barred the government from introducing any change in the
blasphemy law in response to a petition filed by a man named
Sharif issued a notice asking the government to
clarify its position on the issue at the next hearing
scheduled for December 23.
In his petition, Nasir asked the court to stop the
federal government from making any change in the law.
The Chief Justice said the government should not take
any step till the court gives its verdict on the petition.
Nasir further said in his petition that the government
plans to change the law.
He argued that parliament has no power to change the
law under "foreign pressure".
The government`s lawyer told the court that no
amendment will be introduced in parliament till the court`s
final verdict is announced.
The blasphemy law introduced during the regime of late
military ruler Zia-ul-Haq carries the death penalty for
insulting Islam or Prophet Mohammed.
After a lower court in Punjab province sentenced Asia
Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman to death for committing
blasphemy, top government officials have said the law needs to
be amended to ensure that no one misuses it.
Rights and minority groups are campaigning for the
amendment of the law, which they argue discriminates against
Religious Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti too recently
hinted that changes would be made to the law.
Former Information Minister and ruling Pakistan
People`s Party lawmaker Sherry Rehman has introduced a private
bill in parliament to change the law.
Religious groups have angrily reacted to the moves to
amend the law and hundreds of activists of the hardline
Jamaat-e-Islami party joined a rally in Islamabad yesterday
and announced they would resist any attempt to repeal or
change the blasphemy law.
In a related development, a bench of the Lahore High
Court also barred the President or any other government
functionary from pardoning Asia Bibi.