Pakistan: Sherry Rehman submits bill seeking end to death penalty under existing blasphemy laws

المصدر: 
DAWN

Amid announcements by the religious forces in the country to resist any move to change the 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.

Talking to Dawn here on Monday, Ms 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 amendments to the Blasphemy Act, she said, 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.

“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,” she said.

According to Ms Rehman, the definition of the term “blasphemy” is currently vague, yet it carries a mandatory death sentence. Also, she said, there were serious problems with the mechanisms to implement the law. She said her proposed bill would rationalise the punishments prescribed for offences relating to religion provided under Sections 295 and 298 of the PPC.