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Senators call for amending blasphemy law

Updated Apr 18, 2017 09:33am

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ISLAMABAD: Senators on Monday called for amending the blasphemy law to provide for punishments to those who concoct blasphemy accusations against others and deman­ded a campaign against those taking the law into their hands.

Condemning the lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, lawmakers stressed the need for effective steps to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law.

Talking about the blatant misuse of the law, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar said a religious scholar had proposed that accusers who levelled false accusations should suffer the same sentence as provided for a blasphemer.

He recalled how a Federal Shariat Court decision had prompted the maximum punishment for blasphemy to be increased from life imprisonment to death, reminding the house that Raja Zafarul Haq — the current leader of the house — was the chairman of law and justice committee at the time.

He said the committee had made some suggestions while approving the bill and called for that report to be made the basis of any further action.

“The assassination of Mashal Khan should make us think about concrete measures to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy law; we need to revisit this law,” he remarked.

When Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani asked him how mob and street justice could be stopped, Senator Babar said that effective legislation would serve to deter such a mentality.

Retired Gen Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N also called for flaws in the blasphemy law to be addressed. He stressed that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and prohibits any excesses, even against animals “This was not terrorism, but savagery,” he remarked on the lynching.

JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq said that the rule of law was what defined a civilized society and that even if someone was guilty of a crime, no individual or organisation had the right to punish that individual unilaterally. “This shows an imbalance and lack of tolerance in society,” he remarked.

He claimed that no civilised person would support such a ghastly act and called for more than “traditional investigations” in this matter, adding that all the facts surrounding the brutal lynching should be brought placed the people as soon as possible.

Winding up discussion, Minister of State for interior Baleeghur Rahman said there was clarity on the issue at a political level as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the heads of political parties had condemned the incident. However, he admitted that there was a need to check intolerance and revealed that work on a new curriculum was under way.

The House also passed two bills to amend some sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Rabbani’s protest

Earlier, members from both sides of the aisle welcomed Chairman Raza Rabbani by thumping their desks when he entered the house. The chairman had wound up proceedings of the upper house in disgust on Friday after becoming infuriated with the government’s “non-serious” attitude towards the Senate.

Explaining the events since Friday, Mr Rabbani said his decision was the result of a series of incidents. It had become a practice that ministries did not answer questions and sometimes, ministers were not present in the house to answer queries, he said. Things had piled up, he said, and he continued to point out the government’s lapses.

On Friday, 11 questions were not answered and four ministers were also absent, he told the house, adding that his step had no relation to his person, nor was it a political drama and was only related to the respect and sanctity of the house and its members.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2017

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Comments (18) Closed



Larkanavi Apr 18, 2017 09:39am

As expected Mr. Rabbani is back in the senate. What was achieved by him is yet to be seen.

vaqas Apr 18, 2017 09:59am

The law should be amended such that it stands repealed or at the least an ineffective law that carries no consequence to the transgressor. And laws regarding religious profiling and extremism should be strengthened such that all these religious hooligans find this country alien to them and hostile towards all their actions.

wAIZ Apr 18, 2017 10:07am

Members welcomed the Chairman by thumping their desks ! clapping has always been a practice of a civilized society.

Syed Zafar kazmi u.s.a Apr 18, 2017 10:14am

"Talking about the blatant misuse of the law, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar said a religious scholar had proposed that accusers who levelled false accusations should suffer the same sentence as provided for a blasphemer." A suggestion that has been screaming about since the law of blasphemy was passed. This will ensure a just balance of law and will deter all false accusers motivated by personal vendetta. The parliament should waste no time to promulgate it into law, Also the mob behavior resulting into death or life threatening injury must also be restrained by a grave quantum of punishment. If serious preventative measures are incorporated into the body of law, it will go a long way towards curbing the violence so prevalent in the society.

khanm Apr 18, 2017 10:47am

indeed a good and brave move... Mashal khan's death should not go in vain. It is more important that innocence is protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, 'whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,' and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

Naveed Khan Apr 18, 2017 10:52am

Yes Blasphemy law should be amended. In its present form it has caused too much pain, too much grief to the innocent people of Pakistan. My heart bleeds for the people. Anybody levelling a false charge should be Punished with "Life Imprisonment".

Aamir Latif Apr 18, 2017 10:56am

It's high time that blasphemy law should be reviewed against same punishment on false accusers and instigators as well as those Mob plus clerics that uses mosque for such purposes. Voices in Senate and NA should be adhered and GoP and opposition should seriously review this on priority basis. It is disheartening to see University teachers or admin involved as instigators, GoP must ensure serious punishment to all in Mashal Khan's case. It's a sorry state that teachers and educational institutions once pride are places of religious fanatics and teachers are part of it. What can we expect from our youth whether they come out of university or madrassas.

gul Apr 18, 2017 11:02am

This law must be repealed altogether

Zulfi Apr 18, 2017 11:33am

Belated step but agree with senators. Need to be more proactive than reactive.

NAS Apr 18, 2017 11:36am

A positive and good start to address the flaws and miss use of the blasphemy law. Islam is peaceful religion but miss users of the blasphemy laws bringing bad name to Pakistan and wrong impression to Islam.

muntazir abbas Apr 18, 2017 12:14pm

Rule of law should be prevailed and those should be punished who make false allegations.

Sidewise Apr 18, 2017 12:20pm

And the punishment should be equally severe if not more, for those who accuse others for something that could take their lives. As the news come in, AWKUM adminstration is responsible for the killing of Mashal Khan. I would like to see the State come down heavily on to the culprits.

nuzhat shireen Apr 18, 2017 01:08pm

the religious parties which use religion for their own benefits will not allow any change in blasphemy law.

fareed Hussain Apr 18, 2017 01:20pm

this is the real challenge for the legislators. I has already taken the life of Salman Taseer while others who had suggested or spoke for the need for the amending the law had been threatened for their lives......................see how the senators sustain this demand and then act on it despite the Mullahs pressure

Mashal khan Apr 18, 2017 02:13pm

Sirajulhq concerned about a lack of tolerance is amusing... How technical his language this time but i am sure if he were talking about the innocent peoples of Palestine, Kashmir and Syria his face would betray a sense of paranoia and obsession.

krishankant Apr 18, 2017 02:27pm

The law itself must be repealed as it is not relevant in modern era.

Shahid Apr 18, 2017 02:51pm

Are they saying that there is no law to bring to book against the crime of untrue serious allegation; and taking law into ones own hand?

Gerry dcunha Apr 18, 2017 03:49pm

Blasphemy law in Pakistan will never be changed to high pressure from strong religious parties where NS government has a strong support.