ISLAMABAD: A federal minister has suggested the prime minister to undo the recent amendments to the blasphemy law because it was done to “please a specific group” and approved without “fulfilling the norms of parliamentary proceedings”.

The minister was referring to an amendment approved by the National Assembly on Jan 17 in the presence of just 15 MNAs.

Human Rights Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada made the suggestion through a letter he wrote to Mr Sharif, saying the state had a duty to protect religious minorities as it was an Islamic injunction as well as a constitutional obligation.

Mr Pirzada raised concern over the method adopted in the National Assembly to pass the bill for amendment in Section 298-A of the Criminal Act 2021.

“Minority groups have raised their eyebrows on ignoring a good practice in parliamentary business followed for amending a law to eliminate technical defects rather intending to persecute a specific group,” the letter said.

Mr Pirzada added that this bill was tabled and approved by the lower house without fulfilling constitutional requirements like quorum and a meaningful debate by standing committees.

Proposed by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-i-Islami, the amendment has raised the punishment for uttering derogatory remarks against revered personalities, including the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), his family, wives and companions, and the four caliphs, from imprisonment of three years to 10 years.

Furthermore, the amendment has made the offence non-bailable.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2023

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