Pak withdraws bill for blasphemy law amendment
Islamabad: Pakistan’s former cabinet minister and member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sherry Rehman has withdrawn a bill tabled in the national assembly proposing amendments in the blasphemy law, a media report said.
Samaa TV reported on Wednesday evening that Rehman withdrew the bill on the directions of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Gilani had announced on Tuesday that there will be no amendment in the blasphemy law and that he would soon invite religious parties to discuss the issue to dispel the apprehensions in this regard.
The religious-political parties have been gunning for the current regime's head ever since government functionaries started supporting Christian woman Asia Bibi, convicted on blasphemy charges in Nankana Sahib district last year.
Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, went to the prison where Asia Bibi was imprisoned to show sympathy to the woman.
"She has been victimised without any basis and we'll advocate for presidential pardon," Taseer had vowed.
Such statements drew a lot of flak from the clergy in Pakistan, who believed that Taseer committed blasphemy himself by siding with a blasphemy accused.
Taseer received death threats and was later killed by his own guard on January 04.
The horrific assassination put the government on the back foot, as the religious parties tried to defend the killing on the grounds that Taseer had hurt the sentiments of Muslims.
Sherry Rehman, who had tabled the amendment bill in the national assembly after the conviction of Asia Bibi, also received death threats and had to curtail her public appearances.
When the party retreated from the bold position it had taken earlier, Rehman was left with no choice but to withdraw the bill and ensure her own safety.
Speaking to Samaa TV, Rehman said she was bound to follow the party line.
"When the Prime Minister publicly announced that the current regime does not intend to bring about any change in the blasphemy law, I had to withdraw the bill," she said.
According to reports, the said bill, ever since it was tabled, has been lying dormant in the records of the Parliament and was not even handed over to the relevant sub-committee for debate as per the rules of business.
Rehman, who has earlier served as the federal minister for information, has been a veteran journalist before entering politics. She has earned a good reputation for herself in the country's political scene, representing the modern-day woman in the otherwise male-dominated society in Pakistan.