Sherry Rehman submits bill for removing draconian provisions of Pak blasphemy law

Islamabad, Nov 30 (ANI): Amid announcements by religious forces in Pakistan to resist any move to change its blasphemy laws, former information minister and Pakistan People's Party MNA Sherry Rehman has submitted a bill to the National Assembly Secretariat, seeking an end to the death penalty under the existing blasphemy laws.

Rehman said that she had submitted a private member's bill, as she believed that blasphemy laws as set out in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) found their roots in colonial laws, and had in their present form become a source of victimisation and persecution of the minorities in the country, the Dawn reported.

The amendments to the Blasphemy Act were intended to ensure that all citizens of Pakistan had an equal right to constitutional protection, and that miscarriages of justice in the name of blasphemy were avoided at all costs, she added.

"The bill amends both the PPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the two main sources of criminal law. The aim is to amend the codes to ensure protection of Pakistan's minorities and vulnerable citizens, who routinely face judgments and verdicts in the lower courts where mob pressure is often mobilised to obtain a conviction," Rehman explained.

She was of the view that the currently definition of the term "blasphemy" was vague, yet it carried a mandatory death sentence, and that there were serious problems with the mechanisms to implement the law.

Rehman said that the proposed bill would rationalise the punishments prescribed for offences relating to religion provided under Sections 295 and 298 of the PPC.

Politicians and conservative clerics have been at loggerheads over whether Zardari should pardon Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death after a district judge found her guilty of having stated that insects had feasted upon the prophet Muhammad's ear prior to his death and that he married his first wife for wealth, and that the Quran was written by man and not God. Aasia denied the accusations, claiming ignorance of Islamic knowledge. (ANI)

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