New bill proposed to change Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law
A draft bill has been finalised by the government, and will next be put before the government for approval.
To combat the growing abuse of the law, the proposal will also introduce severe penalties against those who make false allegations of blasphemy.
Prepared by the interior ministry, the legislation aims to make sure that vigilantes do not take the law into their own hands, instead of leaving in to the police and courts to administer justice.
It has been reported that procedural loopholes have been identified in Pakistan Penal Code’s Section 295-C, which carries the death penalty, something that the draft addresses.
The move comes after increased international concern, particularly from Europe, over the abuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan.
Under the new legislation it would be necessary to prove someone’s intention to commit an act of blasphemy.
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK has welcomed the proposal. The recent incident of Sandha, Dhup Sarri is the latest example where one individual, Humayun, was accused of blasphemy but the whole community was attacked and Christians had to flee the area to save their lives.
Humayun is mentally unwell and hopefully if the new bill is passed people like him and many other innocents will be dealt with according to the new law.
Mr Saeed said: “The misuse of the blasphemy law is on the rise and since this is a very sensitive issue, Muslims become very emotional and punish the whole community instead of the one individual who is accused of committed blasphemy.
“Under the current law, and as with all crimes, it is up to the police to prove guilt by gathering evidences. But as things stand they simply register an FIR (first information report) and consider an accused person’s crimes. But according the National Police Bureau’s recommendations police will now use a scientific method.
“The Christian community is under constant attack and consider themselves a main target, and the root cause of their persecution is the blasphemy law.”
Last year a Christian couple, Shama and Shahzad were accused of blasphemy killed and burned in a brick kiln furnace where they were working. They were later proved innocent.
Mr Saeed continued: “Several people have been killed by vigilantes without being given the chance to prove themselves innocent.
“Several churches and Christian towns and villages from Shanti Nagar in1998, to Joseph Colony in 2013, have been rampaged and set on fire. Therefore Christias feel very insecure and are living under constant threat.
In the past, those who have raised their concerns over the misuse of this law, or proposed changes, were threatened with death – like Mr M P Bhandara and Sherry Rahman – or killed by extremists – like Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. Even judges and lawyers have been threatened and killed.
“If the new bill is passed and the National Police Bureau’s recommendations are accepted then they will bring landmark changes.
“Although we may not see immediate changes and people may still continue taking the law into their hands, if this draft is approved and implemented properly, it will have a long term impact on Christians’ lives and will hopefully ultimately mean that no innocent person of any faith will be falsely charged or killed for a crime they never committed, “said Mr Saeed.
CLAAS has been campaigning for the abolishment, or at the very least amendments, to stop the blasphemy law being misused against minorities, and particularly against Christians. While at the same CLAAS in Pakistan has been providing free legal aid and shelter to the victims of this law for years. CLAAS prays and hopes policy makers and politicians show courage and accept proposed changes to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law.