Islamabad [Pakistan]: A Pakistan Senate committee is set to debate on the prevention of misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws, which critics say is prevalent in the country.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Senate Committee on Human Rights will start discussions on blasphemy laws as early as next week, based on recommendations from a 24-year-old report, reports the Express Tribune.
He said it would be the first time in decades that any parliamentary body had considered a formal proposal to stop the abuse of the blasphemy laws.
According to Babar, the committee would consider a proposal making it binding to investigate complaints before registering a case, to ensure “genuine blasphemy” had been committed and the law was not being used to settle scores.
He also said the committee would debate whether life imprisonment was an adequate punishment, instead of the mandatory death penalty.
If the committee makes any recommendations, it would be only the first step in a long process to bring about change in how the laws are enforced.
However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office declined to comment on the Senate committee’s moves.
Babar said the Human Rights Committee hit a “gold mine” when he discovered a 24-year-old Senate report that called for a more specific definition of blasphemy and said further debate was needed on whether expunging “imprisonment of life” from an earlier law had been correct.
“So we convinced other senators that here we have a chance, we have a starting point, we have this report in hand. Let’s debate it and see how we can prevent abuse of this law,” Babar said.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been criticised by human rights groups who say they are often used maliciously and to persecute religious minorities in the Muslim majority country. (ANI)