Pakistan will not repeal blasphemy law – govt minister

By Reuters Staff
November 23, 2010

bhattiPakistan will not repeal its controversial blasphemy law but may amend it to prevent abuse because scrapping the legislation could fuel Islamist militancy, a government minister said on Tuesday.

The law, which carries the death penalty for insulting Islam or its Prophet Mohammad, has come under the spotlight this month after a court sentenced a Christian mother of four, Asia Bibi, to death in a case stemming from a village dispute.

(Photo: Shahbaz Bhatti shows cross from church burned in Punjab, November 14, 2005/Faisal Mahmood)

Widespread media attention on the case has led to renewed appeals by human rights groups for the repeal of the law but Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said that would not happen.

“(Repeal) is not being considered though we are considering changing it so that misuse of the law should be stopped,” Bhatti told Reuters. The law enjoys widespread support in Pakistan, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, and politicians are loathe to be seen as soft on the defense of the religion.

Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.

Bhatti said consultations with Islamic clerics and representatives of religious minorities on amending the law would soon be held. He said repealing it was not being considered because that could provoke religious parties and militants who want to topple the pro-U.S civilian government.

Read the full story by Kamran Haider here. On the blasphemy law in Pakistan, see also:

Condemned Christian woman seeks mercy in Pakistan

Sentenced to death: On Pakistan’s minorities

Pakistan court frees mentally ill blasphemy suspect after 14 years

World Council of Churches says Pakistani Christians “live in fear”

Attack on Pakistani Christians revives Punjab worries

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