Pakistan parliament to review anti-blasphemy law

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi

The next session of Pakistan's National Assembly will present 'a motion for the review of the anti-blasphemy law', according to Sherry Rehman, a Muslim member of Parliament, of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Chairman of the Jinnah Institute of Political Studies in Islamabad. The move is being seen as another intent - after those that have failed in the past – taking advantage of the massive publicity given to the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

This step is "important for the whole country, which needs to free itself from radicalism and extremism," sources supporting the initiative told Fides. The motion will aim to set in motion the Subcommittee on Blasphemy, which exists within the Parliamentary Committee for Religious Minorities, but, Rehman notes, it aims to "involve all Parliament, to make it give the Commission a clear mandate for  proposed revision."

Meanwhile, after international pressure, Pakistan's President Ali Zardari has asked the Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, to prepare and present an official report on the case of Asia Bibi. Minister Bhatti and the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, have both called for a new investigation on Asia's case and a fair process of appeal in the High Court of Lahore.

In legal terms, many lawyers and jurists are asking Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan to take action “suo moto” (on his own initiative), on the Asia Bibi case. The procedure - which falls within the prerogatives of his role – has recently been employed by some judges and courts, in cases of alleged corruption in the judiciary. Lawyers ask Chaudhry: "What's the difference in the case of Asia Bibi?"

Meanwhile, a forum of civil society, made up of both Christian and Muslim associations, is preparing to "flood the courtroom of the High Court every day of the trial,” Fides was told by Tahira Abdullah, a Muslim woman working on the protection of human rights and the launch of an outreach campaign - including the signing of the anti-blasphemy law petition - in major cities across the country and through mass media.

Muhammad Aslam Kahaki, a prominent Muslim lawyer, told Fides that he is prepared to submit an appeal to the Federal Court of Sharia as the case of Asia Bibi "also touches the religious perspective. In fact, Islam prohibits the death penalty for women.” Asia Bibi's story is becoming the focus of attention in days in which the country celebrates Eid-ul-Azha, the "feast of sacrifice," one of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar. "The suffering inflicted on Asia – a Muslim activist tells Fides - is a betrayal of the authentic spirit of Eid, which promotes caring for and sharing with our brothers and sisters."

Churches and human rights groups around the world are protesting against Asia Bibi's sentence.

See also  - Pakistan: Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy

Source: Fides/ICN

Share this story