Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 19 January 2011
Pakistan government “not amending blasphemy law”
Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia
Yousuf Raza Gilani’s statement on Tuesday (18 January) followed a brutal attack on two Christian women, a mother and daughter, who were falsely accused by a Muslim relative of insulting Muhammad in a domestic dispute. The pair were so severely beaten that they lost consciousness, and they were publicly humiliated in a parade around their neighbourhood in east Lahore.
Parliament House of Pakistan at night
There have been calls to amend the blasphemy law, which is often used against Christians and other non-Muslims, since Christian mother-of-five Aasia Bibi was sentenced to death last November. This has triggered widespread protests by Muslim groups and the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, who supported Aasia and proposals to reform the blasphemy law.
Mr Gilani said at the Ulema and Mashaikh Conference 2011 that religious leaders must not have any fear that the present government would do anything contrary to Islam or its teachings. He said that they were “not amending the blasphemy law” but warned that they were “not in favour of misuse of the law either”.
A private member’s bill seeking an end to the death penalty for blasphemy was submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat by former information minister Sherry Rehman last November. She said the blasphemy laws had become a source of victimisation and persecution of the country’s minorities.
The blasphemy law is often exploited to settle personal scores and grudges, with Christians and other non-Muslims particularly vulnerable to malicious, false accusation – as seen in the case of Aasia Bibi and the attack on the two women in Lahore. A senior police officer said that the latter incident was “a domestic issue” and the blasphemy accusation was unfair.
It was the result of an ongoing personal dispute between a Christian woman, S.C., and her Muslim sister-in-law. The latter accused S.C. and her Christian mother of insulting Muhammad following a row, sparking action from local Muslim extremists.
People accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subjected to attack by Muslims seeking retribution for the perceived dishonour to their religion. Last month, an imam offered a 500,000 rupee (£3,800) reward to anyone who killed Aasia Bibi if the court fails to hang her.
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