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  • » 09/22/2009, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Pakistani President comes out against the misuse of the blasphemy law

    Fareed Khan

    In London President Zardari says his government will make sure that the law is not misused against religious minorities and dissenters. Some Islamic circles organise protests against possible changes to the law, even if many media are in favour.
    Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that his government would ensure that the blasphemy law is not misused by anyone. He made the important statement last Saturday, after a series of very serious episodes of religious intolerance and persecution and after a number of prominent political leaders asked for changes to the law. Eventually, these were met with protests by Islamic extremists.

    Mr Zardari discussed the issue in London, where he met Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and acknowledged that extremists were misusing the law.

    The law punishes any offense against religion and anyone trying to convert others. Muslim extremists, often with the complicity of police and local authorities, have used it to persecute and jail non-Muslims, especially Christians, and moderate Muslims.

    At least 33 people accused of proselytising have been massacred by enraged mobs or killed by individual fanatics.

    The problem re-emerged recently when a young Christian man was found dead on 15 September in Sailkot Prison where he was held on blasphemy charges.

    Last Friday during a visit to Washington, Pakistan’s Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, said that the Pakistani government would change the law that extremists “are using [. . .] to victimise [religious] minorities as well as Muslims of Pakistan. [. . .] The stand of the Pakistani government is to review, revisit and amend blasphemy law so it will not remain a tool in the hands of extremists.”

    Shahbaz Bhatti was in Washington at the invitation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which gave him an award for championing the rights of minorities in Pakistan.

    Last Saturday the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer said that the law must be repealed to protect minorities, especially Christians, against violence and persecution, a position he had asserted already two days earlier.

    Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), told AsiaNews that the “statement from the governor of Punjab’ was “important  and welcome”, adding that he hoped the central government would take the same view.

    Various Islamic-based opposition parties slammed Salman Taseer’s statement, demanding his resignation and accusing him of trying to use a few violent anti-minority incidents for his own purpose. They also announced that they would take to the streets to oppose any changes to the law.

    Taseer responded on Saturday to his critics, asking what clerics and politicians did to prevent Christians from being burnt alive in the name of this law.

    A wind of change appears to blowing across the country and even a sizable section of the press has come out against the law.

    In an editorial article, the Daily Times wrote on 17 September that “Christians killed in the name of Islam never get justice. The only way an accused can be saved is to bundle him out of the country after releasing him on bail.”

    Another editorial that appeared on 18 September in the Dawn said that the “Punjab government needs to take urgent steps to protect minorities in the province for the situation there is deteriorating. The centre, meanwhile, should start working towards the repeal of the blasphemy laws. For too long they have been used to settle personal scores, grab land—and to kill. These draconian laws must be struck off the books.”

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    See also

    04/01/2017 10:55:00 PAKISTAN
    Salman Taseer’s son risks prosecution for blasphemy

    Today marks the sixth anniversary of the murder of former Punjab Governor. Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard for criticizing the "black law" on blasphemy and defending the Christian mother Asia Bibi. His son Shaan Taseer released a video deemed offensive.



    09/03/2016 13:23:00 PAKISTAN
    For Pakistani Catholics, Shahbaz Taseer’s release after five years gives hope for the future

    After almost five years of captivity, the son of the former governor – killed for his opposition to Islamic extremism – was released. Now he is in a safe place with his family. “Perhaps this release is a sign of the times, mature enough for a necessary change of course strongly advocated by Pakistan’s civil society,” said a Justice and Peace official. For a human rights activist, “authorities seem to be on the right path, but they have a long way to go”.



    01/04/2008 PAKISTAN
    Enough discrimination we want a modern Pakistan, says Christian lawmaker
    Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who chairs the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, was just elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly. In his maiden speech to the house he makes a plea for equal rights for the country’s non Muslim communities.

    14/08/2007 PAKISTAN
    Minorities demand equal rights as country celebrates independence
    As Pakistan celebrates 60 years since independence from the United Kingdom, thousands of people from minority communities demand equal rights, appealing to the vision of the Father of the nation, Ali Jinnah. Former Prime Minister Bhutto says country is in great need for a “voice against religious intolerance.”

    24/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi report to Zardari, but Islamist parties threaten Minister Bhatti
    Islamist parties are turning the Bibi case in a weapon against the government. Reports that she has already been released have been denied. Minorities Affairs minister is convinced that a pardon will be granted shortly. Bhatti says that extremists have threatened him.



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