LAHORE: Pakistan needs to revisit certain provisions in the blasphemy law to bring it in line with Article 25 of the Constitution in addition to ensuring the law is not misused.
The recommendations were made by a one-man tribunal, comprising a then-judge of the Lahore High Court, which proposed that five provisions of law should be reviewed after ‘achieving consensus of Mujtahideen of all Muslim schools of thought’ and after due consultation with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
The commission had been appointed to probe the August 2009 Gojra riots in which seven Christians were killed.
According to the 325-page report of the commission, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, it recommends reviewing five provisions of the blasphemy law which relate to Islam.
It calls for amendments in provisions of 295 – B (defiling of Quran), 295-C (defamatory remarks in respect of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)), 298 – A (derogatory remarks against holy personalities of Islam), 298-B (misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles reserved for certain personages or places of Muslims), and 298-C (Ahmadi calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith).
These provisions create a system which fosters injustice between religions. Furthermore, it propagates that authorities do little to prevent attacks on minorities or punish perpetrators.
In this regard, the judge included a questionnaire for the CII and different Muslim schools of thought on bringing changes in the law so that every religion can be treated as equal as per Article 25 of the Constitution.
The judge also pointed out that the law is often misused for ulterior motives. He referred to the rising number of blasphemy cases registered in the country, though conviction rates remain low and none of the sentences awarded have been fully executed.
He suggested that misuse can be easily avoided by introducing another provision in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) prescribing the same punishment for false complaints. This amendment, however, will have to be approved by parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2016.