Pak court restrains govt from amending blasphemy law
Last Updated: Monday, December 06, 2010, 14:33
  
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 Muhammad Nasir.

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 minorities.

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.

PTI


First Published: Monday, December 06, 2010, 14:33


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