11/09/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Islamabad asks for "suggestions" from Christians to repeal blasphemy law

Fareed Khan
In a meeting - called by the government - with the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Christians and activists have called for the "cancellation" of the norm. Government officials will meet Muslim, and Catholic leaders and activists to promote a common path. The fundamentalist wing calls for "investigations" and punishments against those who fight to repeal the law.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The abolition of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. This is what Christians have asked delegates and members of civil society, in a meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on 6 November in Islamabad. The meeting was organized at the initiative of the Pakistani government, which called for "suggestions" from Christians and activists to improve the rights of minorities. "A positive step," says a Christian activist, but "the road is still long."

 

Mehboob Sada, director of the Christian Study Center (CSC), among participants in the meeting, spoke to AsiaNews, about "the joint motion of Christians and members of civil society", aimed at "the removal of the blasphemy law." Introduced in 1986 by dictator Zia-ul-Haq, the law punishes with imprisonment for life or death those who desecrate the Koran or insult the name of the prophet Muhammad and has become an excuse to attack the religious minorities in the country.  

The Christian activist (pictured) explained that they speaking to the President of the Parliamentary Standing Committee the stressed that "Pakistan does not need this law" that has caused "damage to the lives and property of people" as well as "given a bad image the country abroad". A law adds Sada, according to which "5 thousand investigations were opened against people of different faiths."

According to the director of CSC necessary steps include: implement changes in textbooks, school curricula, using media and events to promote interfaith dialogue. Only then will "respect for the holy figures" of Islam be reinforced without the need for a shameful law, that has been a harbinger of violence and persecution. Mehboob Sada added that the Parliamentary Committee will hold a series of meetings with Muslim figures, Catholic bishops and politicians, to gather more suggestions. "It will be a long journey – he confirms - but, overall, it is a good step forward."  

He stresses that "the influential Islamic lobby" in the country, is contrary to the cancellation of the rule on blasphemy. These extremist groups "have protested and requested the opening of" investigations on charges of blasphemy "against" those who spoke negatively of the law and call for its repeal. "

"In this moment - concludes Mehboob Sada - the government is weak due to pressure from fundamentalists." But if it finds the "courage to continue in this direction," it will bring the country back to "the early '80s, before the law was introduced”.

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