12/07/2010, 00.00
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Asia Bibi:battle continues to change the blasphemy law

by 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Watch, said that Pakistan would remain a laboratory for rights abuse in the name of religion if blasphemy laws were not repealed.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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