Pak minister sees blasphemy law revision this year
Washington: Pakistan plans within this year to revise its laws against blasphemy, which have long been criticised as a way to abuse minorities, a government minister said.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs, said religious reconciliation was a little-noticed priority for President Asif Ali Zardari`s civilian government in Pakistan, which lies on the frontline of the US-led war against Islamic extremism.
Bhatti, a long-time Roman Catholic activist whose position was given full cabinet status for the first time, said he was speaking with political parties to present revisions to the blasphemy law by the end of 2010.
"This is a democratic government which has a commitment to repeal all the discriminatory laws affecting the rights of minorities," Bhatti said in an interview.
"We are using military action to fight terrorism and we are using economic opportunities, but another thing which is important is that we are pursuing interfaith harmony," he said.
Bhatti said while he did not envision an immediate repeal of blasphemy laws, the revision would require judges to investigate cases before they are registered – creating oversight of the police, who are often accused of abuse.
Pakistan`s law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty. While no one has ever been sent to the gallows for the crime, activists say the law is used to exploit others out of personal enmity or business disputes.
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