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Pak govt to withdraw bill for blasphemy law amendment
ISLAMABAD, Feb 3 (Agencies):
Published on 3 Feb. 2011 11:13 PM IST
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Pakistan’s government gave in to pressure from the religious forces, pledging to withdraw the bill seeking changes in the country’s controversial blasphemy law.
The blasphemy law, according to Human Rights Watch, has been misused against members of the minority faiths.
Speaking to parliamentarians, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilan said that the former information minister, Sherry Rehman, who introduced the bill for changes in the controversial law, has agreed to withdraw her proposed bill.
Rehman submitted a bill to the national assembly last year, proposing some procedural changes to the law including elimination of death penalty. However, she never succeeded in winning support from her party members.
Contradicting PM’s claim that she had been consulted on issue of withdrawal of the bill, Sherry Rehman said in a statement that she would abide by the party policy and directives of PM and would not pursue her private member bill, seeking changes to the blasphemy law.
“But since the prime minister has apparently decided that there cannot be discussion on procedural amendments, and the committee announced by the party to amend laws has been disbanded, then as a PPP MNA I have to abide by the party leader’s decision after he has spoken so definitively,” the statement said.
Earlier on Wednesday PM Gillani told the lower house, “We are all unanimous that nobody wants to change this law”. Neither the government nor the speaker formed any committee to consider amending the blasphemy law, Gilani said, adding that only the president or the speaker of the National Assembly was empowered to create such a panel and neither have done so.
Despite government’s earlier assurances that it will not change the blasphemy law, an alliance of religious parties was threatening to continue with the country-wide agitation over the issue. Just last week, thousands of people rallied in Lahore against the bill.
The controversy regarding blasphemy law had been in the spotlight since a Christian woman was sentenced to death in the Punjab province last November.
Last Saturday, a court in Karachi sent a teenager boy Samiullah to juvenile prison who was accused of writing blasphemous remarks in examination paper.
The examination was held in Karachi’s North Nazimabad neighbourhood in April but an FIR was lodged by the controller examinations professor Agha Akber on January 28. Unable to answer question of a compulsory Islamic Studies subject, Samiullah wrote things which landed him in jail for blasphemy.
On January 2, a bodyguard of Punjab’s liberal governor Salman Taseer assassinated him for supporting proposed changes to the law. Critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy law say it has been used to persecute minority faiths in Pakistan, and was sometimes exploited for settling personal scores.

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