Pakistan minister sees blasphemy law revision this year
Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, says his government plans to revise blasphemy law. The law has been used by Muslims to violently attack Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan .
By Shaun Tandon
02/07/2010 Pakistan (AFP)– Pakistan plans within this year to revise its laws against blasphemy, which have long been criticized as a way to abuse minorities, a government minister said.
Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minority affairs, said religious reconciliation was a little-noticed priority for President Asif Ali Zardari’s civilian government in Pakistan , which lies on the frontline of the US-led war against Islamic extremism.
Bhatti, a longtime Roman Catholic activist whose position was given full cabinet status for the first time, said he was speaking with political parties to present revisions to the blasphemy law by the end of 2010.
Bhatti said that while he did not envision an immediate repeal of blasphemy laws, the revision would require judges to investigate cases before they are registered — creating oversight of the police, who are often accused of abuse.
The revised law would also assign punishment equivalent to that under the blasphemy laws for anyone who makes a false complaint, he said.
Pakistan ‘s law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty. While no one has ever been sent to the gallows for the crime, activists say the law is used to exploit others out of personal enmity or business disputes.