Tuesday May 28, 2024

Senate body for mechanism to stop misuse of blasphemy laws

By Mumtaz Alvi
August 17, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Tuesday shared consensus on evolving mechanism to stop misuse of the blasphemy laws.

The panel decided to hold a series of meetings and invite representatives from the civil society and other segments, including religious scholars, legal experts and the Council of Islamic Ideology to firm up recommendations on the matter.

The committee met here at the Parliament House under its Chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of MQM, who said what the panel wanted was to look for ways and means to stop misuse of the law, without having touched it what to talk of bringing any amendment to it.

She noted that the committee was of the view that no innocent person should be punished under this law and added as compared to the non-Muslims, the Muslims had been victim of the trend.

PPP’s Farhatullah Babar also underlined the need for halting misuse of the law. He said positive and comprehensive proposals could be floated in this connection. The ruling PML-N’s Senator Nisar Muhammad cautioned that blasphemy law was not an ordinary legislation and there was a need to deal with the matter with utmost care and proposed having consultations with religious scholars as well as looking into such laws in other Islamic countries.

Mir Kabeer of the National Party said he had reservations over the misuse of the law but said none could even think of amending it. Senator Samina Abid of PTI claimed that some 80 per cent innocent were punished under the law, because of its misuse.

The National Commission on Human Rights Chairman, Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chohan, informed the committee that they had furnished recommendations on the subject: under which any case under this law must not be probed by a police officer less than the rank of SSP and district and sessions judge should hear the case.

He explained the recommendations also included that on filing a false case, a criminal case should be filed against that person and until and unless the offence was under this law was not proved, the case should be declared bail able. Moreover, he said for such cases, training of prayer leaders and cops should be made mandatory.

The Holy Prophet, he pointed out, had pardoned many, therefore, the aspect of repentance should be kept in view and if someone denied having committed blasphemy, the element of apprehension should also be kept in mind.

On this, the Secretary of the Ministry of  Human Rights, Nadeem Ashraf, noted that there was an air of fear and no lawyer was ready to defend an accused under the law and even judges feared on taking up such cases.

Farhatullah Babar said he had reservations over the Council of Islamic Ideology and hence did not wish having guidelines from this platform on the subject, which always added to temperature instead of showing a ray of light.

Senator Sitara Ayaz of ANP and PPP’s Sehar Kamran called for taking decisions only after having done consultations with all the stake-holders.