By World News Report Bureau
The government of Pakistan has suddenly realized the need to stop the abuse of Pakistan blasphemy law and is planning to introduce severe penalties for those who falsely accuse others of blasphemy.
Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws. The first purpose of those laws is to protect Islamic authority in the nation where Islam is the state religion.
Nearly 1300 people mostly non-Muslims have been accused of blasphemy in the last seven years for alleged desecration of the Quran. The Pakistan Penal Code prohibits blasphemy against any recognized religion and provides penalties ranging from a fine to death.
Though the blasphemy law has been overwhelmingly misused to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas, the hardcore fundamentalist islamic groups like the Barelvis are resisting any change.
Even former Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani was of the opinion that there would be no amendment to the blasphemy law
Now a draft bill prepared by the Internal Affairs wing in the Ministry of Justice is being presented to the Parliament for approval.
The aims is to prevent misuse of blasphemy norms and make it binding on the police and the judiciary to punish the guilty.
The new procedure would make it necessary to show the “mens rea” (bad faith and intent) behind an act of blasphemy, a condition which is currently not present.
This would mean that a condition for being accused is the precise intention of committing the crime- as ruled by the Federal Court of Sharia in 1990.
In a recent report, the NGO “Human Rights Commission of Pakistan”, admitted the abuse of the blasphemy law continues to cause oppression and harassment of innocent citizens. 14 Pakistani citizens are on death row, while another 19 are serving a life sentence on charges of committing blasphemy. The number of cases registered in the last 25 years (over a thousand) suggests that the law has been widely abused, often for personal vendettas.
According to a report by the Center for Research and Studies on Security, based in Islamabad, 52 people accused of blasphemy have been victims of extrajudicial executions since 1990.
“It is a major step forward”, says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Saleh Diego, president of the “Justice and Peace” Commission and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Karachi.
“We hope and we will see how the debate goes in Parliament. We know that several parties are favorable of stopping the abuse of the blasphemy law. But extremist parties are still very strong”. The President of the Commission recalls: “As a Church and as a Christian community in Pakistan, we have been asking to implement mechanisms to stop the abuses for years. We lived and dealt with serious cases in which this law was exploited. It is a matter of justice, as there are many innocent people in prison. Avoiding abuse would be a benefit to society as a whole, for the citizens of all religions, Muslims and Christians, accused unjustly”. According to the priest, “the pressures of the international community can be helpful”.