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ANS (07/04/06) — In what appears to be an utter disregard of Pakistani religious minorities’ oft-repeated demand for repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, Pakistan minister for religious affairs Ijaz-ul-Haq has insisted that the country’s blasphemy laws would not be repealed even if 100,000 Christians lost their lives, the Telegraph, based in the UK, has reported.

It is pertinent to mention here that Ijaz is son of the late General Ziaul Haq who in his bid to Islamize the country introduced a number of controversial laws.

The Telegraph report cited two Christians who were released in May 2006 after they were accused under blasphemy laws in 1999.

“Asif Masih and Amjad the two cleaners from Jhang district, 300 miles south of Islamabad, were jailed by a Faisalabad court in 1999 under Pakistan draconian blasphemy laws, having been wrongly accused of burning a copy of the Koran”, it said.

“Because the law can be invoked on the word of just one witness, it is frequently manipulated by Muslims to settle scores or rouse religious tensions,” it maintained.

According to the Telegraph the police made the Quran-burning allegations after the pair refused to pay bribe money in 1998. Their first appeal was rejected on May 23, 2003, and they were finally freed in May 2006, it said.

“It has been a tough period for my family, but I am afraid the real tough time starts now, as the extremists can attack Amjad or somebody else from the family,” the Telegraph quoted Amjad’s wife, Kausar as saying.

Amjad, his wife and their four children are now being looked after by the Bishop John Joseph Shaheed (martyr) Trust, a charity set up in memory of a clergyman who committed suicide outside a court to protest against the blasphemy laws, it said.

“ Pakistan is becoming a fundamentalist state”, the Telegraph quoted the London director for the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Nasir Saeed as saying.

The Telegraph said that Pakistan ’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, a Roman Catholic human rights body, has criticized the authorities for failing to prosecute Muslim militias, whom it claims have murdered at least 23 alleged blasphemers.