12/21/2010, 00.00
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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.

Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The leaders of the All Christian Parties Conference have decided to take to the streets on Christmas Day to call on the government to repeal the blasphemy law. As the High Court in Lahore prepares to set the date for Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence on blasphemy charges, the controversy over the law continues to fuel intense debate in the country. Islamic parties have already announced a nation-wide strike to protect the law, threatening strong-arm tactics if amendments proposed in a private member bill presented by Sherry Rehman are discussed.

Islamic parties have already vociferously protested against a possible presidential pardon for Asia Bibi, an issue currently before the High Court in Lahore, even if it has not yet been presented, after a Muslim man from the capital filed a petition against it.

The All Christian Parties Conference has instead decided to launch its own campaign to free Asia Bibi and have the controversial law abolished. Instead of traditional Christmas celebrations, they will take part in protest marches.

In a related development, Sherry Rehman is no longer alone in her campaign. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has recommended several amendments to the blasphemy law, but it is still opposed to its repeal.

The Council has suggested a number of procedural amendments to ensure that the law is not misused against any individual irrespective of his religion. Capital punishment should however be retained for people who wilfully offend.

Criticism of the misuse of the law is widespread though. Several Pakistani human rights organisations are leading the charge, complaining that the legislation discriminates against minorities.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday said that his government would not allow the blasphemy law to be used for the settling personal scores. “The government,” he insisted, “will take all appropriate measures, whether administrative, procedural or legislative to stop growing incidents of misuse of the blasphemy law”.

The President made the statement during a meeting with a delegation that included MNAs from the country’s minorities led by Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minority Affairs minister.

“Our faith Islam teaches us deep respect for the rights of all human beings,” the president said.

Meanwhile, AsiaNews continues its campaign on Asia Bibi’s behalf. People can write to salviamoasiabibi@asianews.it to express their support.

The number of e-mails received so far has now topped 8,000. Among the many expressions of support that have come by regular mail, more than 150 are from the ‘Rivoluzione morale’, a non-profit association.

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