Blasphemy laws termed ‘discriminatory tool’

Speakers demand protection for religious minorities, urge govt to review various clauses of the Blasphemy Law.

Obaid Abbasi December 01, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The Blasphemy Law is discriminatory and is being used as a tool by individuals to avenge their personal disputes. This consensus was reached by speakers at a seminar titled “The Blasphemy Laws, A call for Review”, organised by Jinnah Institute on Tuesday. They said ever since the introduction of Article 295, 295-A, B and C, not only were minorities being victimised, even Muslims had to flee the country on numerous occasions.

The speakers urged the government to review various clauses of the Blasphemy Law and called for an objective resolution on the subject.

Members of civil society, religious scholars, lawyers, NGO representatives and the Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, attended the seminar and discussed amendments to the Blasphemy Law in light of the recent Aasia Bibi case.

The bill submitted in the National Assembly by Sherry Rehman, former federal minister, was also under discussion. It seeks to amend the Blasphemy Laws, sections 295A-C and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) as amended under General Zia. The bill intends to ensure that all citizens of Pakistan have an equal right to constitutional protection and that miscarriages of justice in the name of blasphemy are avoided at all costs.

Sherry Rehman said that as the law currently stands, the definition of the term blasphemy is vague, yet it carries a mandatory death sentence under section 295C.

“It is essential not only to remove the teeth and infamous use of the Blasphemy Laws but to understand the way forward for our society, as minorities remain the most exploited members,” she said.

President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Asma Jahangir said that most lawyers in Pakistan are reluctant to defend cases relating to blasphemy charges due to which the accused can easily be convicted.

She said such laws should be made to protect the religious and fundamental rights of minorities.

Renowned religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamdi was of the view that existing Blasphemy Laws are discriminatory and there is a need to review the loopholes in the laws in accordance with the real teachings of Islam.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.


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