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ICC Note:

Hope that Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws could be reviewed was kindled recently when the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology said that he and the council would be willing to review the law if asked by the government. The Council of Islamic Ideology reviews laws and their compatibility with Islam in Pakistan. According to the head of the Council, there is not agreement as to whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment under the law. Christians in Pakistan have suffered under the existence of this laws as it is widely misused to settle scores, for personal gain, or to insight religious hatred. Will Pakistan be able to review and reform its blasphemy laws?

2/1/2016 Pakistan (Christian Today) – A Christian organisation monitoring human rights in Pakistan has welcomed a signal by a powerful religious figure there that the country’s notorious blasphemy laws could be reviewed.

The head of the Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, said in an interview with Reuters he was willing to open a debate and see whether the death penalty was an appropriate penalty.

“The government of Pakistan should officially, at the government level, refer the law on committing blasphemy to the Council of Islamic Ideology,” said Muhammad Khan Sherani. “There is a lot of difference of opinion among the clergy on this issue.

“Then the council can seriously consider things and give its recommendation of whether it needs to stay the same or if it needs to be hardened or if it needs to be softened.”

Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK, said the statement meant there was “some hope” for Pakistani Christians, who are the main victims of the law. While no one has yet been executed for contravening it, lynchings are common and many Christians are in prison because they have been falsely accused as a way of settling private scores. Salman Taseer, a prominent liberal politician, was killed by his own bodyguard in 2011 after he championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the law.

Saeed said: “Although there is not much hope, the chairman’s comments are encouraging, as a few years back he was not even willing to discuss this law.

“Although the council can only make recommendations, it is up to the government whether to accept and implement those recommendations.”

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