Gojra riots inquiry panel demands immediate changes in blasphemy laws to protect minorities

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Islamabad, Dec. 7 (ANI): An inquiry panel into Pakistan's Gojra riots has proposed amendments to the country's existing blasphemy laws in order to avoid such incidents in future.

Nine people- including four women and a child -were killed in anti-Christian riots in Gojra in August. Christian homes were burnt after unsubstantiated accusations surfaced that some of them had desecrated the holy Quran.

Lahore High Court Judge Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who is heading the inquiry panel, warned the Pakistan government that "the Gojra tragedy must be taken seriously and the needful should be done on a war-footing without further loss of time".

The violent protests in Gojra triggered ethnic tensions and resulted in the displacement of 96 Christian families.

The panel noted that such riots have "disfigured our national image all over the world. We cannot afford any other menace, [such as] sectarian disputes".

The 258-page report recommends action "without any discrimination against those responsible for commission and omission".

The report also proposes amendments to Pakistan Penal Code sections 295, 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 296, 297, 298, 298-A, 298-B, 298-C, anti-blasphemy laws, relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Police Order 2002.

It recommends that federal intelligence agencies be mandated to provide "first-hand information at the divisional level".

According to the tribunal, the riots were a result of the "inability of law-enforcement agencies to assess the gravity of the situation, inadequate precautionary and preventive measures taken by law-enforcement agencies, the failure of intelligence agencies in providing prompt and correct information, a defective security plan, the irresponsible behaviour of the administration." (ANI)

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