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Pakistan’s government refuses to review Islamic ‘blasphemy’ laws

Persecuted Christians

Pakistan’s government refuses to review Islamic ‘blasphemy’ laws

By Aftab Alexander Mughal

The government of Pakistan has backed out its commitment to review the country’s controversial Islamic blasphemy laws. On Dec. 30, 2010, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah requested that merchants and those in favour of the blasphemy laws to call off their nation-wide shutdown of businesses scheduled for Dec. 31 because the government has no intention to change or repeal these laws. The government’s move is to appease Islamic religious groups who have announce that they will shutter their businesses on New Years Eve to protest against any move to amend the laws. Just a week ago, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti declared that despite various pressures the government will definitely review the laws.

Islamic laws against the “blasphemy” of Islam, Muhammad, the Koran, and Islamic personalities were introduced by late Genral Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s and have widely been misused against Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and liberal Muslims. Christians and human rights groups have been demanding for the total repeal of the laws.

Yesterday, the government in the National Assembly (lower house of the parliament) categorically denied any move to amend or repeal the blasphemy laws. “The government considers that its prime responsibility is to protect this law and it will never support any private members’ bill even from the treasury benches in this regard,” said the federal minister in a policy statement.

Maulana Attaur Rehman, the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a pro-Taliban party, said in the National Assembly the blasphemy laws were a sensitive issue for Muslims and every Muslim has concerns on any effort that made to repeal this law.

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Federal Law Minister Babar Awan said separately the PPP government could never think of changing the law, opposing a bill moved in the National Assembly by former PPP minister and MNA (Member of National Assembly) Sherry Rehman and public statements of support by Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.

Aftab Alexander Mughal

Minorities Concern of Pakistan

Dec. 30, 2010

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Aftab Alexander Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist. He is the editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, an e-magazine, while he also heads the Asia desk of Spero News . For 14 years, he served the “Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan” and “Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan” as National Director for Research and Publications and an Executive Secretary. From 1985 to 1992, he worked as Youth Director of Catholic Diocese of Multan, Pakistan. Born in 1956 in Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab of Pakistan, Mughal has worked with many national and international civil society organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science. He has widely travelled and represented Pakistan at regional and international conferences. He has been awarded the "International Award for Excellence in Journalism 2010" by the Union of Catholic International Press (UCIP) whose international office is in Geneva, Switzerland. The award was made at the World Congress, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 12 -19, 2010. This is Mughal's second award from UCIP. His first one being the "Media in Your Country Award" which he received on the October 20, 1989 in Ruhpolding Germany. Mughal started his career as a journalist in 1979 and edited the monthly magazines "Nishan-e-Rah" and "Mashal." until 1985. Since then he worked as a freelance journalist. His main area of interest is human rights, peace and religious freedom in Pakistan. He also has been contributing to national and international magazines, newspapers and various news agencies and has several books to his credit on minority rights issues including, “Death or Exile” and “From the Ashes of Shantinagar.” Moreover, he is also a co-author of “Section 295 C, Pakistan Penal Code – Study of the History, Effects and Cases under Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.”

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