PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to update it on efforts to amend the Pakistan Penal Code to prescribe only death sentence for the offence of blasphemy.
A bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Mussarat Hilali directed additional attorney general Aamir Javed and additional advocate general Sardar Ali Raza to produce their respective reports about the efforts made for the implementation of a judgment of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) delivered on Oct 30, 1990, declaring that life imprisonment for committing blasphemy was against Islamic injunctions.
It issued the order while hearing a petition of senior lawyer Asif Hameed Qureshi seeking directives for the federal and provincial governments to remove the punishment of life imprisonment for blasphemy from Section 295-C of the PPC.
The petitioner contended that the question with regard to the validity of Section 295-C of the PPC to the extent of alternate punishment of life imprisonment had already been decided by the FSC in a case tilted “Muhammad Ismail Qureshi versus Pakistan through the law secretary(PLD 1991 FSC 10), but the federal and provincial governments failed to implement the said judgment.
Petitioner complains about non-implementation of FSC verdict
The petitioner said the FSC had declared that alternate punishment of life imprisonment as provided in section 295-C PPC was repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as given in Holy Quran and Sunnah and directions were made to the president of Pakistan to take action for amending the law before Apr 30, 1991.
Mr Hameed said the said judgment was challenged before the Supreme Appellate Court but was dismissed due to non-prosecution.
He said it was matter of concern for people of Pakistan that the words “or imprisonment for life” in section 295-C had not been deleted from the PPC by the law makers despite passage of three decades.
Additional attorney general Aamir Javed said in pursuant to the said judgment of the FSC the ministry of law and justice had forwarded a summary for approval of the cabinet for introduction of an amendment bill to make changes in section 295-C of the PPC with regard to omission of the alternate punishment.
He said after approval of the cabinet the said bill was placed before the Upper House (Senate) in the year 1992 which was passed and under the Constitution the same was sent to the Lower House (National assembly).
Mr Javed, however, he said in the meantime the National Assembly was dissolved in the year 1993 and the pending bill got lapsed in terms of Article 76(2) of the Constitution.
He said fresh process had to be initiated by the law ministry.
The AAG said it was expected that the ministry of law would re-submit the same before the cabinet division for onward proceeding as early as possible.
Additional advocate general Sardar Ali Raza representing the provincial government said there was no bar under Article 143 of the Constitution for legislation by the provincial government or making amendment in the PPC.
He, however, said they were looking towards the federal government and if an amendment was made to Section 295-C of the PPC by the federal government, it would be applicable to the entire country.
The petitioner said under Article 227 of the Constitution, it was the responsibility of the respondents to make all existing laws in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2021