10/07/2009, 00.00
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Muslim lawmakers also against blasphemy laws

by Fareed Khan
Two Muslim lawmakers slam abuses due to legal provisions on blasphemy. About 90 per cent of all claims are false. The Pakistan Christian Congress launches a national campaign for the “total repeal” of laws. Another Christian organization organises conference on minorities.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Christian and Muslim members of Pakistan’s National Assembly have called for the repeal of the blasphemy provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code, more generally known as the blasphemy laws, in today’s session. At the same time, the Pakistan Christian Congress has called on all Christian organisations to join a national campaign for the “total repeal” of these laws, which are often used against the country’s religious minorities.

Pakistan’s former Information Minister Sherry Rehman, and Jameela Gilani, both Muslim Members of the National Assembly (MNAs), have called for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. Ms Rehman, from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said that police and the administration were misusing these laws. Ms Gilani, from the Awami National Party, stressed that her party was in favour of the repeal of the laws because “we are against all laws introduced by dictators.”

In an act of provocation, Christian MNA Akram Masih Gill asked, “If there is life imprisonment for blasphemy against the Holy Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Quran, then why not the same punishment for blasphemy of Jesus and Bible?”

Up to now, 994 complaints have been filed against Christians under the blasphemy laws, but “90 per cent of these cases have proved to be false,” he said. “Let this law not be misused.”

Last month, Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistani Punjab, the province with highest number of blasphemy cases, also called for the repeal of the blasphemy laws to protect minorities.

In the meantime, Christian organisations have launched a number of initiatives to do just that and reach substantive equality for all of Pakistan’s citizens, as envisaged by the constitution.

The Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) for example is organising a conference to be held on 24 October in three of the country’s most important cities, bringing together Pakistan’s main Christian organisations in order to obtain the “total repeal of blasphemy laws’.

The PCC wants people from all walks of life in all four provinces, as well as the capital Islamabad, to join in. In order to increase participation, it is planning to hold the event simultaneously in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Another Christian group, the International Minorities Alliance (IMA), is organising and ‘International Minorities Conference’ for 12-13 December in Lahore.

IMA President Nazir Qaisar said the purpose of the conference is “to discuss and deliberate the future of minorities in Pakistan”.

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