Groups meeting at a U.N. event organized by the World Council of of Churches have called on Pakistan to make changes to its controversial blasphemy laws to prevent its abuse especially against Pakistani from minority faiths. According to the law, an individual can be punished by public execution if convicted of insulting the Islamic faith. In Pakistan, the law is often abused to persecute members of Pakistan minority faiths, such as Christians and Hindus. Will Pakistan reform?
10/15/2014 Pakistan (The News) – Pakistan has been urged to make changes to the blasphemy laws to prevent the abuse and wrong prosecution of Pakistani citizens who are of non-Islamic faith.
The call was made at a side UN event at the Palais Des Nations, which discussed the misuse of the blasphemy law and rights of minorities in Pakistan. The event, organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and moderated by Rev Kjell M Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway, saw participation of a large number Pakistani Christian groups and human rights campaigners.
This year on the occasion of 21st session of human rights council, lots of conferences and seminars are being organized to discuss Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as the news of Christian girl Rimsha Masih’s imprisonment is still fresh and the fact that some leading Pakistani hardliners supported her against the cleric who wrongly accused the minor of blasphemy.
IA Rehman from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that the law needs urgent amendment as it has “killed discourse on the issue” in Pakistan. He said an “atmosphere of fear” prevailed in the society and the parliament dared not discuss it.
“It has divided Pakistan by a wall of hate and that wall of hate is extending to the international arena. There is a direct nexus between this law and the tensions within communities. The blasphemy cases are registered on such flimsy grounds that the superior courts set free all the accused but the problem is those who are accused are meted out punishments by the militants and even ordinary members of the society. It’s allowing a mindset to grow and peddle hatred,” said Rehman, asking the government to come forward and show responsibility by making changes to the law. Defending the blasphemy law, Maulana Uzair Albazi, a religious scholar from Multan, said the law was necessary because it protected Prophets of all faiths. He conceded that the law was abusing the rights of Pakistani systems because of the holes in the “procedural system”.
“We cannot completely eradicate the law from our constitution. It was approved by the national lawmaking body and implemented accordingly but there is a no doubting that the law needs tools alongside that prevent its misuse. The problem lies in our system. Its misuse can be prevented if only honest officer above the superintendent position recommends the registration of a case after having consulted two religious scholars, including a religious scholar from the non-Islamic faith. The case should be registered only after a strict scrutiny,” Maulana Albazi argued. Peter Jacob Gill, Justice and Peace Commission, Roman Catholic Church of Pakistan, said that Pakistan needed to get rid of “all discriminatory laws, which make preferences on the basis of religions amongst citizens.”
“Blasphemy law comes as a spike in this scheme of things and any healing of the situation of demands that all law and policies are made to comply with the fundamental rule of international human rights and rules on non-discrimination of citizens. The law needs to review by a competent body. Even the Federal Shariat Court has said that this law is against non-Muslims,” Gill said.