Judge recommends a review of Pakistani blasphemy law; Seeks equality among all religions

A Pakistani judge recommended revisions of at least five provisions of the country's blasphemy law to safeguard the law from misuse and ensure equality among all religions.

According to Barnabas Fund, a religious organization that exposes cases of Christian persecution worldwide, a one-man tribunal, also a former judge of the Lahore High Court, sought to place the current blasphemy law in line with Article 25 of the Constitution by revisiting five of its provisions.

A rally in Lahore protesting the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in Lahore because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law. Picture taken on January 8, 2011. | Reuters/Mohsin Raza

The Express Tribune listed the five provisions to be amended as that of 295 – B (defiling of Quran), 295-C (defamatory remarks in respect of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)), 298 – A (derogatory remarks against holy personalities of Islam), 298-B (misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles reserved for certain personages or places of Muslims), and 298-C (Ahmadi calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith).

The tribunal — tasked to investigate the incident in August 2009 when a Muslim mob of more than 800 attacked a Christian settlement in Gojra, burned down an estimated 60 houses and killed eight Christians after a rumor circulated that indicated charges of blasphemy — asserted that the five provisions tolerated religious injustices such as sectarian attacks against religious minorities.

He intends to seek approval from the Mujtahideen of all Muslim schools of thought as well as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). The parliament also needs to approve the proposed amendments.

"Christians face a lot of discrimination in society and the bigotry against them often ends up using the vehicle of blasphemy allegations motivated either by designs to take over land or by personal enmity or ego," the Independent quoted lawyer Sundas Hoorain as saying.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) also condemned the Pakistani police for doing little to prevent cases of Christian persecution. The group revealed how the Christian minorities in a predominantly Christian village suffered social boycott and even made to choose between converting to Islam and abandoning their homes. This happened after a Christian resident accused of blasphemy fled away to save his life.

"The situation is getting worse with each passing day," said the AHRC in a report. "The Christians are living in constant fear that their houses may be set on fire by a mob if the police does not provide them with round the clock security."

It added, "The state must proactively work towards encouraging interfaith harmony and prosecute perpetrators of violence in the name of religion without fail or delay."