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PAKISTAN: Court accepts petition not to change blasphemy laws

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PAKISTAN: Court accepts petition not to change blasphemy laws

Aftab Alexander Mughal

On Dec. 6, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has accepted for regular hearing a petition which says the parliament had no right to amend the penal provisions involving the offence of blasphemy. A citizen, Nasir Rasool, filed the petition. His counsel submitted that the government was planning tabling in the parliament certain amendments to these provisions which step was against the injunctions of the Holy Quran.

While human rights organisation calling for repealed or at least review of the laws after the death sentence of a Christian women Aasia Noreen, thousands of Muslim extremists have been organising protest rally every day in different cities, especially in Punjab province, against any likely move to amend the blasphemy laws; which have been misused routinely against Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan .

Chief Justice of LHC Khawaja Sharif, who is allegedly close to right-wing political parties (especially Muslim League Nawaz Group) to be in the favour of blasphemy laws, asked the federal government’s counsel, Aziz Ahmad Mali, as to if the government was planning tabling any bill in this regard. Mali submitted that no bill had been introduced in the assembly to curtail the capital punishment for blasphemy law of Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The court issued notice to the government for December 23.

Meanwhile, the chief justice also adjourned till Dec 23 a connected case, challenging the government`s alleged bid to grant presidential pardon to blasphemy convict Aasia Noreen.

Mrs Noreen, 45-years old and a resident of Ittawali village (a Muslim village) in Nankana district, Punjab province of Pakistan, was sentenced to death by District and Session Judge Nankana Judge Naveed Iqbal after the court found her guilty of making blasphemous statements against Prophet Muhammad. On November 8, 2010, she was charged under a blasphemy law Section 295 C, PPC.
Additionally, the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s general house on Dec. 6 unanimously adopted a resolution asking the federal government not to make any amendment in section 295-C of the PPC, which provides for death penalty or life imprisonment for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.

Federal Secretary for Human Rights Justice Riaz Kiyani (retired) said told the media on Dec. 6 there was no need to change the existing ones.

When Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, raised the issue to review the blasphemy laws he was threatened with death by the extremist elements.

Qari Mohammed Salim, the Muslim imam, who is the complainant in Noreen’s case told the BBC, “If the law punishes someone for blasphemy, and that person is pardoned, then we will also take the law in our hands.”

A Muslim scholar Ishtiaq Ahmed writes in his column, which was published in the Daily Times on Dec. 7, 2010, “How do we explain that despite several Sufi shrines being targeted by suicide bombers the Ahle Sunnat ulema are demanding that Aasia Bibi should be executed? How can the Ahle Sunnat ignore that fact that they themselves are on the hit list of extremists who consider them guilty of crimes no less serious than blasphemy? The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is considered a ‘democratic, parliamentary’ party by some western academics. Its leader, Syed Munnawar Hassan, has also demanded that Aasia Bibi should be put to death. That is the type of democracy the JI actually represents. Can one seriously believe that all these people who are crying for the blood of a poor Christian woman are doing this for their love for Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)? Perhaps, but what a love!”

Aftab Alexander Mughal

Minorities Concern of Pakistan

December 7, 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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