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Pakistan’s Strict Blasphemy Laws to be Debated by Senate Committee

Pakistan’s Strict Blasphemy Laws to be Debated by Senate Committee

A Senate committee in Pakistan will look into the country’s strict blasphemy laws after a 24-year-old report recommended an investigation into their validity.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used by extremist Muslims to persecute the Christian minority. Perhaps the most notable example of this persecution is of Christian woman and mother Asia Bibi, who was imprisoned and given the death penalty on trumped-up charges that she blasphemed against Islam.

Christian Today reports that 95 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, which makes it difficult for Christians and other minorities to find support when accused of blasphemy.

Pakistan ranks fourth on Open Doors recently released 2017 World Watch List for countries where Christian persecution is most severe.

The blasphemy laws prescribe life imprisonment for the desecration of the Quran, which can take many forms, and the death penalty for “defiling” the Prophet Mohammed, which is also often broadly applied.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declined to comment on the proposed discussion by the Senate Committee for Human Rights.

Since the blasphemy laws have been in place for so long in Pakistan, and since they are tied so closely to the dominant religion of the country, progress is likely to face strong opposition.

Tahir Ashrafi, head of the prominent Pakistan Ulema Council of Muslim clerics, has said the council would support enacting a law to punish those who abuse the blasphemy laws, but would oppose changing the laws themselves.

"Make new laws to punish those who abuse blasphemy laws," he said. "But no one can even think about changing this law."


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Publication date: January 13, 2017