Following multiple instances of religiously motivated violence fueled by Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, a senator from the ruling party has proposed a reform to the laws that would hopefully curb the violence. In the past month alone, a Christian blogger was arrested on blasphemy charges, Asia Bibi filed her appeal with the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a Christian couple was brutally murdered after being accused of blasphemy. Will Pakistan reform its dreaded blasphemy laws? Will this lead to less persecution? Only time will tell.
12/8/2014 Pakistan (Morning Star News) – In the span of one month, a Christian blogger who hid for more than three years on a blasphemy charge was arrested; a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for allegedly speaking ill of Muhammad filed her appeal with the Supreme Court; and a mob tortured and killed a Christian couple accused of desecrating the Koran.
At the end of that month, November, a key senator from the ruling party floated a proposal calling for the establishment of inter-faith committees throughout Pakistan to investigate blasphemy allegations in order to head off potential violence.
Rising violence against non-Muslims on false charges of blaspheming Islam prompted Raja Zafarul Haq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party to call for reform of blasphemy laws blatantly misused to settle personal vendettas. The proposed committees would help defuse communal tension and stave off incidents such as the Nov. 4 murder of Shama and Shahzad Masih in Chak 59 village near Kot Radha Kishan on false charges of desecrating the Koran.
“The [inter-faith] committee should ascertain the facts, and in case the allegations are denied, then it should drop the charges against them,” he said during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Religious Affairs.
He spoke after the religious affairs committee reviewed a report on the gruesome slaying in Kot Radha Kishan, in which the body of Shama Masih and the battered and unconscious Shahzad Masih were burned in a brick kiln.
Asked whether his PML-N party would introduce relevant legislation for setting up such committees, Haq said, “This is my proposal which I had given a couple of years ago as well; there should be discussion over it [in parliament].”
The senator insisted that such cases could not be closed by secretly shipping blasphemy convicts out of the country or allowing someone to kill them at pre-trial stages.
Haq said there is a need to revamp blasphemy and other laws related to worship places, and that either the Religious Affairs Ministry or the Council of Islamic Ideology or both could undertake such reform.
He also noted that if police had taken notice of the allegations against Shama Masih on Nov. 2, when they first surfaced, and taken the couple into protective custody, the tragedy could have been averted.