In an apparent bid to ease pressure exerted by right-wing elements, the government has announced in clear terms it does not have any plans for repealing or amending the blasphemy laws.
In a policy statement to the National Assembly here on Wednesday, Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah said the government did not own the private bill of a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) legislator seeking to amend the Blasphemy Act.
Former information minister Sherry Rehman has tabled in the National Assembly secretariat a bill to alter misuse-prone clauses of the act.
Khursheed Shah said the bill did not reflect either the government or the PPP’s point of view on the issue.
“We [the government] have no intention of repealing the blasphemy law … ensuring the respect of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is part of our faith,” Shah said in a brief but clear statement.
The minister assured minorities that the government would also take steps to ensure that this law was never misused against them.
Right-wing political parties have been protesting since President Asif Ali Zardari announced a pardon for the Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was at the heart of a controversy.
The government had earlier indicated that it would at least amend blasphemy laws and formed a committee led by Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti in this regard.
Responding to Shah’s clarification, Maulana Attaur Rehman of the JUI-F said that the government should also dissolve the committee to prove its sincerity.
“It is a sensitive issue and there are deep concerns on it across the country,” said Atta, the younger brother of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that drone strikes inside Pakistan tribal regions were counterproductive and these attacks are helping terrorists accelerate their activity.
Responding to points of order raised by some members of the National Assembly from tribal areas, he said the political leadership and military had been successful in their planning to isolate the militants and separate them from the local people which had helped curb the incidents of terrorism.
On the issue of the arrest of Shahzain Bugti, Gilani said the government would take the house into confidence after the joint investigation team submits its findings.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2010.
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