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  • » 12/07/2010, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi:battle continues to change the blasphemy law

    Jibran Khan

    High court lawyers unanimously ask the law not be modified, while Islamic and Christian scholars propose amendments or its abolition. The protest of Punjab’s Christian MPs. Fears for the life of women: 46 extra-judicial deaths for blasphemy cases from 1990 to 2010.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – The battle to amend the blasphemy law continues. Lahore High Court Bar Association general house yesterday unanimously adopted a resolution asking the federal government not to make any amendment in section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which provides for death penalty or life imprisonment for blasphemy. The house resolved that no change should be made in the blasphemy law and federal government should not bow to international pressure in this regard. The resolution read that national and international media, eminent personalities have launched a propaganda campaign to compel the government to amend the blasphemy law.

    While waiting for the Lahore High Court to fix the date for the hearing of Asia Bibi’s appeal, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, there are growing concerns that the woman may be victim of an attack. A total of 46 people were killed extra judicially in Pakistan during 1990-2010 following charges of blasphemy. The information obtained revealed that 28 of those killed were Christians and 24 were killed in the Punjab, the region where Asia Bibi lives.28 of the murdered people were Christians, 15 Muslims, two Ahmadis and one a Hindu. All these people accused, of crimes under the blasphemy laws, were either killed extra judicially or found dead in prison under dubious circumstances.

    Eight of these people died in the police custody. Five were killed by the police. One of them committed suicide and two were found dead in prison with the cause of their death unknown.  Father Abid Habib from Lahore said that he believed that the extrajudicial killings raised questions in relations to the failure of the police security. “The Catholic Church has always been condemning such tragic incidents. We have long been campaigning for the repeal of these laws,” he added.

    Father John Gill, the senior South Asia researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said that Pakistan would remain a laboratory for rights abuse in the name of religion if blasphemy laws were not repealed. National Commission for Peace and Justice (NCPJ) is among the organizations calling for blasphemy laws repeal. NCPJ Executive Secretary Peter Jacob said, “In a society like Pakistan where people can be easily instigated into taking law in their hands, such laws should be immediately abolished.” Religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi said that the Quran does not lay down a punishment for blasphemy. “In talking about these laws, one should understand the circumstances in which Ziaul Haq introduced them,” he said. He also said that the current laws were not Islamic.

    Meanwhile, the Christians MPs of Punjab have made a silent protest outside Parliament because the Speaker of the Parliament Assembly Rana Iqbal Ahmed prevented them from taking the floor on the case of Asia Bibi, saying it was a "sensitive" argument. But later, when Ali Haider Noor Niazi of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, an Islamic religious party, spoke with great vehemence on the subject he was not stopped by the Speaker.

    The AsiaNews campaign to save Asia Bibi continues, join our efforts by sending your letter to: salviamoasiabibi@asianews.it . To date we have received 7500 signatures, via Internet or on paper.

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    See also

    21/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi affair: Pakistani Christians to march on Christmas Day against blasphemy law
    The High Court in Lahore will soon set a date for Asia Bibi’s appeal. Christians will take to the streets in Lahore to demand the law’s repeal. “The government will take all appropriate measures” in order “to stop growing incidents of misuse of the blasphemy law,” Pakistan president says.

    02/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi: fears over safety, controversy over stay on pardon
    The lawyers of the Supreme Court to protest stay on pardon by the President. A committee will hear religious and political leaders and experts will present to Parliament proposals to amend the blasphemy laws. Date for the appeal against the death sentence still not set.

    11/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Priest warns Christians are at risk. A young man tortured and killed
    Incidents against the faithful, especially in central Punjab, increasing at an alarming rate. The police and the judiciary "cover" crimes and abuses for fear of the local Muslim lords. A young man killed by his employers, and the police would not accept the father’s report.

    12/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Islamabad confirms Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister for minorities
    Government reshuffle took place yesterday. Bhatti has struggled in recent years to amend the blasphemy law and has recently requested a pardon for Asia Bibi.

    09/11/2009 PAKISTAN
    Islamabad asks for "suggestions" from Christians to repeal blasphemy law
    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.



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